Clarke off to flier before Woods comes to life

September 22nd, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Clarke off to flier before Woods comes to life

AN inspired Darren Clarke helped Europe gain the upper hand as Tiger Woods again struggled to find his form in the Ryder Cup.
Playing in the opening fourballs with Jim Furyk against Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington, Woods dragged his opening drive into the lake to the left of the fairway, some 40 yards off line.

After a penalty drop Woods played a good approach to 15 feet, but Europe looked to have the upper hand when Harrington and Montgomerie both set up good birdie chances.
However, after the European pair had missed from 20 and ten feet respectively, Furyk converted his attempt from seven feet to put the Americans one up.
Furyk's birdie at the fourth was matched by Montgomerie after Woods could only make a par five, and the World No.1 then missed from four feet for par on the next to allow Europe to level the match.
At that point the home side were ahead in the other three matches, Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson recovering from a slow start in some style against JJ Henry and Stewart Cink.
Rookie Henry put the Americans ahead with a birdie from seven feet on the second but Karlsson holed from similar distance on the third to level and Casey then eagled the fourth after a stunning three wood to five feet.
In the third match, Sergio Garcia holed from long range to win the first against David Toms and another rookie, Brett Wetterich, while partner Jose Maria Olazabal's birdie on the second was matched by Toms.
The biggest cheer of the day from the huge crowd around the first hole was reserved for Clarke as he strode onto the first tee, the Ulsterman playing less than six weeks after the death of his wife Heather.
Partnering good friend Lee Westwood against Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco - who both hugged Clarke on the tee - the 38-year-old looked relaxed and confident and smashed a brilliant drive over 300 yards down the opening hole. Clarke's approach shot matched his drive and he duly holed from ten feet for birdie to put the European pair one up, although Mickelson later birdied the fourth to bring the match level.
Montgomerie's par was good enough to put Europe one ahead on the seventh despite hitting a tree with his drive, the other three players making a complete hash of the 430-yard par four.
Woods finally came to life with a birdie from four feet to win the next, but then putted off the green on the ninth and was again grateful that Furyk, who birdied from 25 feet to go one up.
The group behind also struggled on the seventh, Casey and Cink finding water with their approach shots and Karlsson's second ended up on the camera tower behind the green.
But, after pitching to 15 feet, the giant Swede holed for a par which was good enough to put Europe two up. Garcia and Olazabal remained one up after Toms matched Garcia's birdie on the sixth and the bottom match remained all square after six.
Woods had been three over par for the front nine but birdied the 11th and 12th to put the American duo three ahead with just six to play. The European pair had managed just one birdie between them so far, and that from three feet on the par-five fourth.
There was better news in the second match with Karlsson's approach on the ninth close enough to be conceded for a birdie to go three up, while Olazabal also birdied in the match behind to move two ahead.
The Spanish pair were unlucky not to be further ahead having gone to the turn in 30, five under par, while the bottom match was all square after nine.
The wet conditions meant preferred lies had reluctantly been introduced for the opening fourballs. Andy McFee, chief referee for the Ryder Cup, said: "We will have four very experienced referees, led by the European Tour's John Paramor, with the four matches to take a close look at the amount of mud on the balls and the amount of disturbance to the flight of the ball.
"The decision as to whether we continue with preferred lies in the following sessions, beginning with today's afternoon foursomes, will then be based on fact rather than speculation."
Play began on time at 8am despite gale-force winds again battering the K Club overnight.

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