For the first two days it went every bit as planned. The Americans took to a rainy Friday and jumped to a 5-3 lead, mostly by beating Europe's King and Kong, Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, in the morning foursomes and the afternoon four ball.
Even after Costantino Rocca recorded the third ace in Ryder Cup history, a five-iron at the 6th that ignited a Saturday morning European rally that knotted the score at 6-6, the U.S. rebounded to win three of the four afternoon matches, the last on Corey Pavin's electrifying chip-in from above the slick 18th green, which sank Langer and Faldo and turned a one-point U.S. lead into two, 9-7.
Lord, the bleachers were still trembling from the "Cor-ey! Cor-ey! Cor-ey!" that rained down from the throng that remained around the 18th green as European captain Bernard Gallacher entered the mostly empty lunchroom at Oak Hill. The world was writing Gallacher off, and with good reason. No European team since the Eisenhower Administration had come from behind on the last day to win. Yet here was Gallacher pitching his dream again.
"We're still going to win," he was telling a Sky television reporter. It was the same thing he had been saying for a month. Sure. This from a guy who was 0-9 as a player and captain in these things.
The Sky man wrapped up his cables, and NBC was asked if it wanted to speak to Gallacher. It politely declined, and he headed out into the freezing night, alone.
Even in the morning, even upon studying the Sunday singles pairings, it seemed that Wadkins had won. Gallacher had put his shlubs off first and last in hopes that Wadkins would waste a Pavin or a Davis Love III on them. Instead, Wadkins did the same as Gallacher, loading up his middle with his best players.
The problem was, nobody told the shlubs they were supposed to lose. Howard Clark, who rode the bench for three of the first four sessions, even went so far as to knock a six-iron in the jar at the 11th hole to square his match with Peter Jacobsen. And still a simple par-4 on the 16th would have halved the match for Jacobsen, and the U.S. would have kept the Cup. Jacobsen made a 5, unable to get down in two from some 65 feet.
So somebody else had to make a simple par at the 18th to halve a match and give the U.S. a Cup-retaining 14-14 tie, but nobody would. One by one they found their own banana peel to slip on.
One down to the unlikely British hero, bald and bespectacled David Gilford, Faxon got a break. Gilford slammed a four-wood over the green and off the bleachers and was looking at pure jail. But Faxon hit a five-iron that hung up in the wind and wound up short and in the bunker. Still, Gilford hit a terrible pitch that didn't go 10 feet and stayed in the long rough behind the green. Then he chipped that eight feet by. Faxon blew his sand shot six feet above the hole, which is where you want to be only if you're certifiable. Gilford made. Faxon missed. Full point for Europe.
Next came Strange, who in his only previous action had lost a match on both Friday and Saturday. Strange had been wrought to the Cup by his old Wake Forest buddy, Wadkins, because of something he had done six years ago at Oak Hill, which was win the U.S. Open. Unfortunately, that Strange is gone now, and a guy who hasn't won since then keeps staring at him in the mirror. Maybe it was sentiment that made Wadkins think magic had no expiration date, but what could Strange do? 'Hey, I haven't asked for this," he said on*** Wednesday. "I didn't get a vote in it." He didn't enlist. He was drafted.