Live Blogging the Saturday Four-balls

Saturday September 20th, 2008

Alan Bastable, senior editor for Golf Magazine, live-blogged Saturday afternoon's four-ball matches. Connell Barrett covered a dramatic morning.

7:21 p.m. "My stomach's churning," Zinger tells Jimmy Roberts in the wake of one of the most thrilling days in recent Ryder Cup history. Hell, all of America's stomach is churning. What a day. For both sides. Poulter tells Mark Rolfing: "I think we got a huge piece of momentum today." Poults might be right. JPC from Cairo, you'll be pleased to hear I'm off tomorrow as Mike Walker resumes the blog beat. Enjoy it...

7:14 p.m. Mahan now for eagle from just off the green and below the hole. Nope -- leaves it on the low side. That's a 4 for the Americans, leaving the door open for Team Ikea. First, Karlsson for eagle -- missed it left. Now the comebacker back up the hill for birdie and the halve ... and it's in. Another gripping match ends in a halve. 

7:10 p.m. Here we go -- Mickelson's in the same junk right and short of the green that Stricker and Curtis found. Chunks it out. "Poor drive, poor second, poor third," Miller says (I think he made the same remark as Phil played the 72nd at Winged Foot, no?)   

7:04 p.m. One match left on the course -- and it's HUGE! If Mick/Mahan win the hole, the U.S. takes a three-point lead into singles. If the Swedes win it, it's a one-point ballgame. Drama, anyone?

7:01 p.m. Furyk for eagle at 18 -- nope, hangs it out right. Perry previously chunked his eagle chip. Perry has hit his share of dodgy shots the last two days. Probably a case of wanting it too much. McDowell now -- for birdie and the win. Pushes it. That clears the stage for Poulter. He's got a three-foot slider. Miller says he can drill it inside left. And ... pure! Poulter makes his 4 and the Euros get the point. Poult's reaction? Nothing short of Hulk like -- bulging neck vains, popping eyes. Great stuff.   

6:55 p.m. Stenson for birdie at 17 -- leaves it on the edge. Phil now -- yikes, misses it. Phil's gotta make that. Up at 18, McDowell throws his third shot over the flag, leaving probably 20 feet down the hill. Poulter's turn, his third. Sticks it, where else? Tight!   

6:50 p.m. My fingers hurt.

6:49 p.m. Mickelson assaults the flagstick at 17 and gives himself a round of applause. Can't remember the last time I've seen Phil this jazzed -- maybe never. Furyk now -- at 18. Hits his second to 20 feet below the hole, will have a good look at eagle. Perry's turn, also at 18, staring straight down the green's gut. Leaves it a little short and right, but in a good spot.   

6:46 p.m. Casey for a matching 4 -- gets it! Man, some match. These guys halved 16 of 18 holes -- Miller says he's never seen that before.

6:44 p.m. Garcia for eagle at 18 and the win ... up the hill, down the hill, curling right, curling some more ... just misses. Good effort. Stricker now for birdie. Got it! An up-and-down for the Ryder Cup history books. 

6:39 p.m. Poulter, too, finds the short stuff on 18. Up ahead, Curtis hits his fourth to the green. He's toast. Stricker from the junk -- genius shot. Somehow leaves it 12 feet below the hole.

6:36 p.m. Oh, boy. Stricker and Curtis are in the hay short and right of the 18th green. Furyk and Perry, meanwhile, split the fairway off the 18th tee.

6:34 p.m. Faldo's assistant captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, gives some advice to Stenson and Karlsson, who were trying to determine if they should give Mahan and Mickelson a putt. According to RC rules, only the captain may dispense advice. Olazabal and Team Europe, a PGA rules official tells NBC, will be issued a warning. Meanwhile, Poulter for bird at 17 -- downs it! That'll secure the match unless Furyk can make a putt that Miller just said everybody has missed to the left. Big moment for Jimbo, from no more than 10 feet ... no! Yes! No! Yes! A full 360-turn around the cup! And in it goes. On to 18...    

6:23 p.m. Sergio on the tee at 18. Plays his patented power cut. Lovely. Left side of the fairway. Casey's drive finds the bunker left of the fairway. Curtis overcooks a draw into the left rough. Stricker rips one long and stong, past Garcia. This is the seventh match to reach 18 in the '08 Cup; the U.S. has won two of them. The other four have been halved.

6:18 p.m. Stricker and Curtis are AS at 17, and Curtis has 12 feet for biridie and the win (Johnny, please don't say this is the biggest putt of his life) ... and he misses it. All-square, one hole to play.

6:14 p.m. Perry -- a good run at 15 for birdie but it doesn't drop. Now McDowell -- same line, but closer for par and the halve. Boom! The Euros stay 1-up. Who is this guy?

6:07 p.m. Karlsson! Again! Birdies 15! That's four straight birds for the Swede and six in the last seven holes. Hicks says it's the hottest Ryder Cup streak he can remember. But there's Mahan again to answer with a birdie of his own. All square as they head to 17.

6:03 p.m. Back to business: Mickelson approach to 15 finds the hazard (did my Winged Foot comment jinx him?). But Mahan picks up the pieces, a sweet shot to 12 feet left of the pin. Man, is this match juicy. 

5:59 p.m. Reader "JPC" checks in from the Middle East: "C'mon guys -- 14 min between blog comments is too damn long. You've got 4 4-somes on the course. I'm sitting here in Cairo, Egypt, with no live TV. I'm refreshing my computer every 45-75 seconds to keep up to date, & you guys aren't giving me much info. Your inane comments are no substitute for actual shot descriptions & the real story of what's going on. Just the facts, man!" Point taken, JPC. How's the weather in Cairo?   

5:53 p.m. Karlsson with another birdie, this one at 14. Phil matches. AS thru 14. Those two are sizzling. Should be a spectacular finish. Question: If Phil makes a birdie to win this match at 18, or pulls off some other feat of clutchness, does that exorcise the Winged Foot demons? Discuss.

5:48 p.m. NBC's Mark Rolfing asks Boo where he'd rank the bunker shot he hit tight at No. 15. Boo says it's No. 9, adding "I dun had eight holes in one."

5:40 p.m. Uh-oh, Mahan misses a three-footer (tops) at 13, giving another one back to the Swedes. All square. Westwood now to keep his match alive ... no! Catches the cup but stays out. Boo and Holmes get the first point of the Saturday four-balls. 

5:34 p.m. Correction: Robert Karlsson is now my second favorite player. Anyone catch Jiminez with his 10-foot-long walking stick and cigar? He look like some kind of tribal elder. Here's come Holmes' approach at 17 after Boo missed the green. "I'd say this is the most pressure he's ever had in his life on one shot," Miller says. Miller's prone to overstatement. 

5:30 p.m. Stricker and Sergio exchange sterling approaches at 15. McDowell and Furyk trade sensational tee shots at the par-3 14th. And now Perry hits his to kick-in range! So much for Ryder Cup pressure. The tenser this thing has gotten, the better these guys have played.

5:24 p.m. Weekley and Holmes are dormie with two to play. Karlsson drops a putt at 12 to cut the Mickelson/Mahan lead to 1 up. That's the Swedes first win since the first hole.   

5:20 p.m. I'm no Benedict Arnold, but I'd like to see Europe steal a couple of these afternoon matches. A 10-6 U.S. lead, or something in that neighborhood, won't likely make for much drama tomorrow. Although 22-6 sure would be sweet, wouldn't it? J.B. Holmes just left a birdie try on the edge of the 16th hole. Westwood from 15 feet to win the hole ... nope. You can see why Westwood is such a fine match player, though. He just doesn't give up. Ever.         

5:06 p.m. David DeNunzio, Golf Magazine’s instruction guru, has a beef. “I’d gladly bring back ‘You da man!’” he writes, “if it meant no more fist touches.” 

5:01 p.m. The Euros -- read: Westwood -- make Boo tap in his gimme at 15.

4:58 p.m. Garcia and Stricker trade birdies at 13; Stricker and Curtis stay 2-up. Are these greens made of Silly Putty? Guys are going after flags with abandon. 

4:53 p.m. "I feel old," Mickelson says of his place on this team. Scary thought. Now I feel old. He and Mahan have been a joy to watch. Mahan makes me a lot less nervous than the excitable Kim. And Phil always makes me so nervous. So Mahan-Mick is a better match. In other news, Boo sticks it to 18 inches at 15. Miller's take: "Now that's a golf shot." Biting analysis, Johnny.       

4:46 p.m. Boo and Holmes have been dropping holes like they're hot. Their 3-up lead thru 10 has been cut to 1-up thru 13. But things are looking up at the par-4 14th. Boo and JB are putting; Hansen and Westwood are both in the bunker. Ugh -- ugly roll by Holmes. Boo's turn now, from just off the green ... BOO-YAH! The place erupts. Two-up, four holes to play.   

4:25 p.m. Mahan rolls in a slippery 15-footer at 9. Karlsson matches with a putt that Miller says "everybody had under-read." Phil and Mahan stay 2-up. Moving ahead to the short par-4 13th, the TV guys are disappointed that Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's set-up man, didn't move up the tees to tempt guys to drive the green. Hard to disagree. Would have been a blast to watch. That said, I don't know how you hold that green with a driver. It's smallish and surrounded by a moat.

4:14 p.m. Boo, at 12, just hit a 20-foot putt about eight feet. Still, his bogey matches the Europeans, keeping him and Holmes 2 up thru 12. Is that the first time this week bogeys have halved a hole?   

4:12 p.m. Reader Tom Fitz: "Was [the Elvis look-alike] wearing Blue Swede Shoes?" No, Tom, they were actually Boo Suede Shoes. But enough senseless yapping. Perry just missed a 3-footer to send him and Furyk 2-down thru 9 to Poulter and McDowell.

4:07 p.m. Stricker misses a shortie at No. 10, allowing Garcia and Casey to get it back to all-square. And just when it looked like Stricker had found his stroke. 

3:59 p.m. Elvis impersonator sighting at the 8th tee. And I can't think of one decent Elvis pun. A low moment for the golf.com blog.         

3:52 p.m. Phil drops an eagle at 7, sending him and Mahan 2 up. Nice job by NBC: moments earlier they caught Mickelson stopping to chat with Ray Floyd on the seventh fairway. "Let's go get an eagle," Phil said (I may have that quote wrong, but that's pretty close.)   

3:48 p.m. Holmes and Boo go 3-up thru 10, prompting U-S-A! cheers from the gallery. But don't expect Westwood to pack it in. He's taking this match personally. "I don't mind then they're raising their arms and whooping the crowd up, but there's no need to do it between shots," Westwood said of Weekley and Holmes yesterday. "You walk a fine line when you start doing that sort of thing between, using the crowd to your advantage when you're at home." I think they have a name for that: home-field advnantge.

3:40 p.m. Stricker with a chance from 12 feet to win the 9th .... nope. This green has the boys confounded; Casey had missed a similar putt, also on the low side, moments earlier. Stricker/Curtis stay 1-up. 

3:38 p.m. Poulter makes birdie at No. 7 to put him and McDowell 1-up over Perry/Furyk and post the first blue flag on the board. Blame Perry for that one -- he chunked an easy chip into the bunker and had to settle for par.
   

3:26 p.m. Wow, Garica just dropped a 30- or 40-footer at the par-3 8th, triggering a a strartling primal yell -- "C'MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!! "C'MOOOOON!!!" Stricker then answered with a bird of his own ... and an animated, un-Strickerlike reaction of his own. Best moment yet in this Cup.    

3:20 p.m. Anybody else miss the Snoopy blimp?

3:16 p.m. NBC graphic: Nos. 2, 6 and 11 are the three longest par 4s in Ryder Cup history. All are around the 500-yard mark. All four players in Phil's group just hit the green at 6.

3:10 p.m. Tony Navarro, Adam Scott's caddie, is on the bag for Ben Curtis, who's regular caddie is a Brit. Navarro is a fiery dude. At this year's U.S. Open he barreled into the gallery to confront some well-oiled hecklers. Good thing he's "neutral" at this super-charged event.

2:58 p.m. Casey just hit the best shot of the day -- a 3-iron approach to eight feet at No 7. He needed that. He and Garcia are 1-down. Phil/Mahan are 1-up thru 5. Boo/Holmes are 2-up thru 7. Perry/Furyk are still deadlocked with Poulter/McDowell.

2:58 p.m. J.B. Holmes makes birdie at 7. Westwood tries to match, but burns the cup. Boo and Holmes go 2-up. As Westwood's putt passed the hole, in the corner of the picture you could see Boo's arms stoking the crowd. This Boo-Westwood rivlary is taking off.   

2:53 p.m. Look at Ben Curtis gettin' it done as he rolls in a 15-footer at 7 to keep him and Stricker 1-up. Meanwhile, J.B. Holmes hacks one out of the greenside rough at 7. "When J.B. swings," Miller says, "that grass has no chance." Now Boo from the rough at 7 -- pops it up and out to about 15 feet. Over at 5, Mahan throws another dart. Nobody is hitting crisper irons today.   

2:45 p.m. Anyone catch Jimmy Roberts' essay on why the Ryder Cup means so much? Nearly every player they interviewed had glassy eyes during the segment. Wonder if they feel pressure to get -- or, at least, look -- emotional for a piece like that? Hey, Boo, would ya pass the Visine?    

2:39 p.m. I said this yesterday, but I can't get enough of the par-5 7th. I think they should just play it 18 times.

2:35 p.m. Miller just said the fourth hole is out of place -- "way too easy" for this course, he said. Maybe so, but Mahan was the only player in his group to hit the fairway. Boo just won the 6th to send him and Holmes 1-up. Three Old Glories are now on the board and the Perry/Furyk match is AS.

2:30 p.m. Phil just did an NBC promo for its Sunday night football game. Wonder if he has action on that game?   

2:29 p.m. Phil's heating up. Just bombed another birdie, this time at 3. Be afraid, Europe. Be very afraid. The commentators just brought up Seve's the-U.S.-needs-to-win-or-American-fans-will-lose-interest-in-the-Ryder-Cup comments. Brian Viner of The Independent in Britain thinks we're already past that point: "Whatever unfolds today and tomorrow at the Valhalla club," he wrote yesterday, "we delude ourselves if we think it will register as much more than a blip on the American sporting consciousness. They prefer internecine sporting warfare over there; when your land mass is 3,536,294 square miles, other countries are superfluous, in sport as in life." Heavy. 

2:17 p.m. Johnny Miller pointed out that the Americans have won 17 of the par-3s to Europe's 9. For all the talk of the U.S. power game being an advantage at Valhalla, the Yank's iron play has been their savior. 

2:15 p.m. Mahan and Karlsson just threw a couple darts at No. 2. Those boys can flat-out stripe it. Phil just drained his birdie try from off the fringe. Pick it up, Hunter. They're AS thru 2.

2:07 p.m. NBC's Jimmy Roberts just questioned Faldo about the Poulter pick. Clearly Faldo's sick of this topic. "He's 23rd in the world," Faldo shot back, "and he just holed a putt to finish second at the Open Championship." Glare. Awkward silence.   

2:04 p.m. NBC just cut to Johnny Miller; he looks like you just stepped out of a microwave. Somebody get that guy some sun block. Update: Boo/Holmes AS thru 4. Curtis/Stricker 1-up thru 3. Perry/Furyk AS thru 2. And Mickelson/Mahan 1-down thru 1. Why do I get the feeling that Mickelson and Mahan are going to provide some late-afternoon theatrics?    

1:54 p.m. Weekley just rammed a putt by the 4th hole and picked it up before it stopped rolling. Great thing about match play, that. You can pick up your really bad putts before they roll off the green. Big-time humiliation saver.   

1:48 p.m. We just got our first look at Robert Karlsson. This guy's got a boatload of game, and he might be my new favorite player. If you don’t know much about the Swede, he’s golf’s Thoreau—or John Tesh, for you music fans—a new-agey introspect perpetually on the path to self-discovery. Oh, and he reportedly cleanses his system with volcanic rock, and once reenacted his birth. A tad cooky, you might say. From John Garrity’s SI profile of Karlsson in 2002: “Karlsson submits to deep-woods therapy, attends workshops where participants are not allowed to talk for a week and performs improvisational psychodramas with terminal cancer patients. On more than one occasion Karlsson has dropped out of sight and returned a few weeks later, gaunt and weak from fasting. ‘Many people think I'm crazy,’ he says. Now they think he’s crazy good. Karlsson had 10 top-10s this year on the Euro Tour and won the Mercedes-Benz Championship a couple weeks back. He was also the only Euro to place in the top 20 in all four majors this year. Look for him to bag one in ’09.

1:42 p.m. Phil and Mahan take flight at No. 1. Phil's drive goes left into the trees, then takes a member's kick back into the fairway. Up ahead Poulter drops a bird followed by an aggressive fist pump. Easy, Poults. You're 1-up thru 1.    

1:38 p.m. Curtis and Stricker exchange a fist bump after a Curtis bird at the first, taking them 1-up. Stunned to see Stricker and Curtis out there again. You have to wonder if Zinger -- a la Faldo and Poulter -- is trying to justify one of his captain's picks in Stricker.   

1:35 p.m. Quick update: Weekley/Holmes are AS thru 3 after both Boo and the Great Dane, Hansen, missed birdie tries on the third green. Curtis/Stricker are AS thru 1. The third match is just underway. NBC stat just showed Sergio's RC winning percentage: 70%. Sergio missed a makeable putt at No. 2 immediately after.

1:29 p.m. This just in from our on-site Brit, Paul Mahoney: “Did you hear Jimmy Roberts talking to Nick Faldo? Faldo said: “The age of playing all five matches is over.” OK, so guess who’s the only Euro to platy five matches this year? Yep, Ian Poulter, Faldo’s much-questioned captain’s pick. Think Nick is making a point? 

1:23 p.m.Hello, again, out there. You might remember me from such Ryder Cup blog sessions as yesterday’s four-balls. Faldo benched me this morning, but I’m back – and fully recharged. Looks like the Europeans have made match of this thing, and just in the Nick of time. Well done, Faldo. Gutsy captaining, mate.

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