- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland — Europe shredded the Stars and Stripes again.

Completing its third consecutive victory with the first five-session sweep in the history of the event, Europe dominated the United States in yesterday’s singles to consummate an 18-9 romp of the Americans in the 36th Ryder Cup.

“For Europe, it’s amazing. If you’re Irish, it’s as good as it gets,” Irishman Darren Clarke said after completing a month-long emotional odyssey following the death of his wife to breast cancer with a brilliant performance at K Club.

Entering the event, the European media openly wondered whether Clarke would be emotionally and psychologically capable of competing in the biennial event. And European captain Ian Woosnam endured a healthy dose of criticism for using his two wild-card picks on Clarke and best mate Lee Westwood. But the pair finished the week with a stellar 6-0-2 record. And as Clarke stood sobbing in Woosnam’s arms on the 16th green yesterday, seemingly the whole of Dublin roaring behind him, golf’s premier team event was granted one of its most unforgettable moments.

“It was your destiny,” Woosnam said to Clarke.

Fate might have favored the Europeans from Friday. But frankly, they didn’t seem to need much help.

The favored Europeans were spectacular from top to bottom in matching their record nine-point margin of victory from 2004 at Oakland Hills.

Every player on the European roster had contributed to the squad’s point total by the end of the first day’s play, a staggering statistic of balance.

Six Europeans finished without a defeat (Westwood, Clarke, Luke Donald, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul Casey and David Howell).

Sergio Garcia became the first player on either team since 1993 to win all four of his two-ball matches.

And the result was the fifth European victory in the last six Ryder Cups and the most thorough thumping by either team since Continental Europeans joined the event in 1979.

“What can I mix with this water because I probably need something,” U.S. captain Tom Lehman said after watching his charges lose all five sets of matches.

The Europeans took each of the four-balls and foursomes 2-1, then thrashed the Americans 8-3 in the singles.

“The European team just played better,” Lehman said. “To a man, we just tip our hats to them because they played a tremendous golf tournament.”

While Europe was astounding in putting the sword to the U.S. team again with its customary combination of superior form and friendship, the Americans again were equally disappointing.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods (3-2-0) and scrappy wild-card pick Scott Verplank (2-0-0) were the only Americans to post winning records over the three days on the 7,335-yard, par-72 course. Aside from that pair, the only real bright spot was rookie J.J. Henry, who scratched out halves in each of his three matches.

Surprisingly, the team’s weakest performances came from the pair who paced the American victory in last year’s Presidents Cup. Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, who teamed superbly en route to compiling a 7-0-3 record against the Internationals at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club (Lake Manassas, Va.), failed to post at K Club. Both played a shocking standard of golf in Ireland, combining to finish with a team-dooming 0-7-2 mark.

“I’m very disappointed in my play this week,” said DiMarco (0-3-1), who provided a fitting finish to the event by dunking two balls in the pond left of the 18th green in his 2-down singles loss to Westwood. “I was very excited going out with Phil. I felt like we had a great partnership at the Presidents Cup and we were going to go out and do some damage this week. It goes back to momentum. We just never got momentum.”

Lehman went in search of Uncle Mo yesterday, front-loading his singles lineup with his top players in an attempt to create a Brookline-style, early morning surge of American success. But beneath Woods and Stewart Cink, who did their part by posting U.S. victories in two of the first three completed matches, the board was a tide of European blue. The next five matches all fell to Europe, and Swedish rookie Henrik Stenson clinched victory for the Europeans with an eight-footer at the 15th hole that gave the squad its 15th point with five matches still on the course.

The rest of the afternoon was little more than an extended victory bash as the European team and its ecstatic swarm of Irish fans soaked the property in cheers and champagne.

“Tom Lehman’s father came up to me behind the 17th green and said this is the best European team that’s ever been assembled, and I’d have to agree with him,” European Ryder Cup rock Colin Montgomerie said after running his singles record to a sublime 6-0-2. “All I would like to say is I’m very proud to be part of the 12 here yet again, and to equal the record score of Oakland Hills, we never thought that would be possible again for many, many years, and we’ve done it the very next time. … We’re bloody good.”



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