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News And Notes
October 06, 1997
U.S. Comes Undone at 17
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October 06, 1997

News And Notes

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The Full Monty

When a spectator cheered one of his missed putts at the U.S. Open in June, Colin Montgomerie barked back, "Save it for the Ryder Cup." Montgomerie certainly saved his trash talking for the Cup. A few days before the competition began, he offered his candid analysis of many of the U.S. players. Although Seve Ballesteros probably wished that Monty had kept his opinions to himself until after the match, some of them were right on the money.

U.S. PLAYER

MONTY'S ASSESSMENT

THE FACTS

TIGER WOODS

"I've finished ahead of him in three majors. He can't win five points out of five."

Failed to win his last four matches, finishing 1-3-1.

PHIL MICKELSON

"Sorry, he might have a great touch on the greens, but you can't rely on him at every hole.'

Missed crucial six-foot putt that would have clinched a win in Saturday four-balls.

BRAD FAXON

"He's going through a divorce. Mentally, I don't think he'll be with it."

Didn't make a birdie in first 36 holes; lost Cup-clinching match to Langer.

DAVIS LOVE III

"If one of them has a putt for the match, I wouldn't want it to be him."

Went 0-4; worst individual performance since John O'Leary went 0-5 in 1975.

JEFF MAGGERT

"I don't think anyone is going to be too intimidated by him."

Won two of three matches; was one of the best U.S. players.

U.S. Comes Undone at 17

During the Ryder Cup's final practice round, on Sept. 25, European captain Seve Ballesteros ordered his superstar foursome of Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood back to the 17th tee after their first try at the hole failed to impress him. SEVE? HE CRAZY! scolded the headline in the following day's London Daily Mail, but the newspaper had it only half right. What it should have added to the headline was LIKE A FOX because Ballesteros apparently has known for some time what both teams eventually found out: The 17th would be the Ryder Cup's pivotal hole.

It was on this awkward 511-yard par-5 that Langer closed out Brad Faxon for the point that kept the Cup in Europe. That two-putt par, however, barely rates mention given all the other drama that went down on 17. "That hole has been the difference," said Scott Hoch after Saturday's play.

Because the par-4 18th was relatively benign and generally halved, winning 17 was crucial. Four times during pairs, the Europeans won 17, then closed out the Americans on 18; a U.S. pair won the hole once. During a high-testosterone second day of four-ball, Faldo, Westwood, Mark O'Meara and Tiger Woods all reached the green in two. Westwood's two-iron from 235 yards to six feet was one of the brassiest shots of the Cup, and Woods and O'Meara were eventually forced to concede the eagle putt, ending their match 2 and 1.

Earlier that day Montgomerie and Darren Clarke took the lead for good in their four-ball match against Fred Couples and Davis Love III at 17 when Montgomerie made an eight-foot birdie putt. Ever the curmudgeon, Montgomerie could be seen brushing off Ballesteros as Seve tried to dispense advice before the decisive putt. "Sometimes Seve would be better off staying in his buggy and watching, especially on the 17th," said Montgomerie.

The first Sunday singles match to reach the 17th was between Justin Leonard and Thomas Bjorn. Both laid up and wedged to within seven feet. On their ensuing putts, only Bjorn found the bottom of the cup, for a birdie that gave him his first lead. Leonard, who had won the first four holes, came back to win 18, but halving the match instead of winning it went a long way toward aborting the furious U.S. comeback. Although both Hoch and Lee Janzen later won the 17th, it didn't matter. The damage had already been done.

A Record Breakthrough By Ward in Charlotte

Before last week's Fieldcrest Cannon Classic in Charlotte, Wendy Ward had failed to break 68 during any of her 22 starts this year on the LPGA tour. By Sunday evening, though, she had broken it three times and set the tour's 72-hole scoring record by five strokes with a 23-under-par 265. The mark had previously been held by Nancy Lopez and Beth Daniel, who have combined for 80 wins in their careers. "That's pretty nice company," said Ward, who shot rounds of 66-65-64-70 on the 6,318-yard, par-72 Peninsula Club course.

Ward appeared destined for stardom when she turned pro in October 1995. A three-time All-America, Ward had won the 1994 U.S. Amateur and in March 1995 tied for third at the Standard Register Ping, nearly becoming the first amateur to win an LPGA event since JoAnne Carner won the Burdine's Invitational in 1969. Three months later, Ward led Arizona State to a third straight NCAA title and that fall finished third at the LPGA Q school. In her two years on tour, though, Ward, a long hitter with a deft touch, has struggled with her accuracy. Last year she was 75th on the money list, and her best finishes were two ninths. This year, her best showing before Charlotte had been a 14th at the Giant Eagle Classic in Warren, Ohio, in July.

Ward wasn't alone in her assault on the Peninsula Club, which was softened early last week by heavy rain. Rosie Jones and Jane Geddes also broke the old scoring mark of 270, finishing second at 267, 21 under par. Neither golfer, however, seriously challenged Ward on Sunday. "She was just playing really good," Jones said. "Too good."

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