- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 29, 2002

Sam Torrance might have won the Ryder Cup for Europe last night.
Torrance enjoyed his finest hour as a player at the Belfry in 1985, holing the winning putt to end a 27-year European drought in the event. This time the wily European skipper came up with another bit of Birmingham brilliance, deftly outmaneuvering Curtis Strange with his surprise singles lineup.
Torrance guessed correctly that Strange would put his most potent players, world Nos.1 and 2 Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, in the anchor positions for today's closing singles matches. Armed with that info, Torrance front-loaded his lineup and anchored it with his two least valuable players, obscure Ryder rookie Phillip Price and struggling Swede Jesper Parnevik.
Sure, the U.S. almost certainly will win both matches. But Europe expected both Parnevik and Price to lose to whomever they played. The Swede's game has finally gotten as off-center as his personality. He could swallow Mount Vesuvius and it wouldn't cure his current case of the crookeds. And Price, let's just say his world ranking is comfortably in the triple-digits.
But thanks to Torrance's stratagem, Mickelson and Woods are wasted on his Eurotrash.
"I was just diddling a bit," said Torrance of the move. "I thought it was important for us to put pressure on them early with some of our horses, if you will."
It's time to tip your hat to Torrance. The ploy might not be enough to usher the Europeans into the winner's circle, but the 49-year-old Scot certainly has done everything he could do to help his team's cause.
The lineup coup was just the last and finest move on his part. Torrance also had the rough pinched in at the Belfry at the 280-yard mark before the event to de-emphasize the United States' distance advantage. And he instructed the staff to slow the greens down to 10 on the stimpmeter this week. Not only is that a comical speed never seen on the U.S. tour, but slower bumpier greens also are more arbitrary. Arbitrary conditions always hurt the superior team; it's similar to relegating a Maserati to a dirt road.

Kudos to Torrance aside, history says the foreigners won't win the Cup. The United States has won six of the last seven singles sessions, the lone exception coming in 1995. And the average score in the singles since the 1987 event has the Americans finishing 6-4-2. That means we're expecting a 15-13 U.S. victory.
"We've traditionally done well in the singles," said Woods after he evened his record at 2-2 with two victories yesterday.
And why not? The foursomes and fourballs formats might favor the touchy-feely, team-oriented Europeans. But the singles is just that an individual format that suits the typical U.S. mindset you're out there alone with no safety net and no cheerleaders.

No matter what happens today, we'd like to nominate Colin Montgomerie for Ryder Cup MVP. It's simply fascinating that a player universally known for his Grand Slam failures can morph into a unflappable machine every two years and be such a reliable force in such a stress-crazed event. With two more victories yesterday, Monty finished as the only undefeated player at the Cup who played in every match (3-0-1) and ran his overall Ryder Cup record to a sterling 15-7-5.
By the way, it's a shame the belly putter wasn't invented a decade ago. If he'd had that weapon at his disposal, we think Monty would have three major victories on his resume (1994 and '97 U.S. Opens and 1995 PGA Championship), and Ernie Els would be well, Colin Montgomerie.

Perhaps the most positive thing that's happened at the Ryder Cup is the revival of two of the game's most promising, though stalled, careers. Lee Westwood and David Duval arrived at the Belfry in cadaver-serious slumps, and both have emerged in style. Westwood, who has plummeted more than 100 spots in the world rankings because of a 14-month victory drought, made seven birdies yesterday afternoon in his fourballs match with Sergio Garcia. The Euros lost for the first time in four tries as a partnership, but Westwood seems to have rejoined the living.
As for the former world No.1, Duval hasn't won an event since the 2001 British Open. But he emerged from his competitive hibernation yesterday, turning around his match with Mark Calcavecchia against Parnevik and Niclas Fasth by becoming the first player at this year's event to drive the 10th green.
"I figured we needed to make something happen," said Duval, who won the hole with a conceded birdie and then carried Calc to a comeback 1-up victory. "I feel like I am back. It's amazing what this atmosphere will bring out in you."

Finally, you have to be in awe at the caliber of play thus far. The eight fourball pairings combined to play the Belfry in 64-under yesterday afternoon. That's strong enough to overwhelm the Ryder-threatening image of Fasth and his Richard Simmons fist pump.

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