- Associated Press - Sunday, October 3, 2010

NEWPORT, WALES (AP) - The clock started ticking for Corey Pavin and the rest of the U.S. Ryder Cup brain trust as soon as Francesco Molinari holed the putt that hurt the most.

One hour was all they had, 60 minutes to come up with something that would work because all their best laid plans of the last two years didn’t.

The obvious choice was to take a page from the past, send out the best early and hope to somehow, some way, get some momentum to turn the Ryder Cup around. You know, the way Ben Crenshaw so famously rallied the troops 11 years ago at Brookline.

The problem is, no one knows who the best U.S. players are anymore.

Tiger Woods? Not after the whipping he and Steve Stricker took Sunday. The $10 million man Jim Furyk? He seems to be suffering a FedEx Cup hangover.

And where do you hide Phil Mickelson, well on his way to making his mark as the worst Ryder Cup player of recent history?

“There’s nobody to hide, but thank you for asking,” Pavin said.

One hour to come up with a plan. Pavin barely needed 30 minutes to scribble down his names.

If there is a comeback, Woods won’t be the one igniting it. If the momentum is to shift, it will happen while Mickelson is still having breakfast.

If the U.S. is going to somehow retain the Ryder Cup, guys like Steve Stricker and Stewart Cink are going to have to lead the way.

And if Pavin has some grand strategy, his opposing captain seems as perplexed by it as everyone else.

“It does surprise me that match eight and 10 contain the No. 1 and 2 in the world,” European captain Colin Montgomerie said.

Surprise might be an understatement for Pavin’s decision to put Woods out eighth in the day and Mickelson two pairings later. It’s almost like the taciturn U.S. captain looked at Woods‘ balky swing and Mickelson’s lousy putter and decided they had little chance of giving him points anyway.

But emotions are everything in the Ryder Cup, and relegating the best two players in the world to support roles can’t do much to inspire a U.S. team that kicked away any realistic chance of winning Sunday afternoon after briefly rallying to make it a contest. By the time Woods and Mickelson make the turn Monday, the Europeans might already be celebrating in front of crowds who care as much about this competition as they do.

It’s not as if the odds weren’t already stacked against the Americans. Molinari’s final putt to pull out another half point for Europe made the score 9 1/2-6 1/2, meaning the U.S. would have to pull off the second biggest comeback in singles to take the Ryder Cup home with them.

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