Finally, on the 16th hole, Azinger made a birdie that Faldo couldn't cover, and the Americans led by a hole. But even as moonlight began to fall, Faldo answered with still one more birdie, at 17, and the match was tied again, with no light left. They slept that night with a 7:30 a.m. tee time to play one lousy hole.
Playing in a nose-reddening 49° chill, facing the scariest tee shot at The Belfry, Couples hit his drive into the water, and Montgomerie hit his second shot into the same. So much for the junior varsity. Azinger made a stirring two-putt par, leaving Faldo with a 12-footer to save the tie. He dunked it. Monster match halved. "Man," said Azinger, shaking his head, "that guy's just stronger than dirt." The Europeans led by a point.
Try this out for killer golf: On Saturday afternoon the team of Olazabal and Joakim Haeggman of Sweden were 2 down with two holes to play to Floyd and Stewart. Both Europeans had half-wedges into the par-5 17th green. Haeggman went first and left his shot four feet from the pin, to the vibrating roar of the fans. That, however, was not good enough for Olazabal, who has been trained by Ballesteros to think he is Anthony Quinn in The Guns of Navarone. He asked Haeggman to run up 80 yards and mark the ball. Nobody had seen gall like that since Walter Hagen once asked his caddie to tend the pin from 180 yards.
But wait. Ollie proceeded to hit his wedge off the pin, to within two feet of the hole. Remember this, kids: When Jose Maria says he needs it marked, he needs it marked.
That's when Stewart stepped up and sank a 15-foot putt that rendered the pin-rattling moot. It was sweet redemption for Stewart, who had been benched for Friday's opening rounds of foursomes (alternating shots) and four-ball (better ball). "On the back nine Payne was just putting the eyes out of it," said Floyd like a proud father. Floyd would end up winning three of his four matches and announcing his Ryder Cup retirement. "I won't be this good a player in two years," he said.
Even that wasn't the best story of the day. The best story was how America's scrubs, Beck and John Cook, who had sat the pine for the first three rounds, finally got called in by captain Watson for the four-ball on Saturday afternoon. Their assignment was to beat Faldo and Montgomerie, who hadn't been beaten. It was like telling the 12th man on the bench to go cover Jordan. Write if you live.
So what happened? The usual. Faldo made his 35-footer for a birdie on number 1. But then Cook did something crazy. He drained one on top of Faldo's ball from 18 feet to tie the match. Cook made another birdie on four and another one on seven. Then a funnier thing happened. The Yanks refused to give back the lead. It was U.S. Steel, 2 and 0.
"There he is!" Beck kept hollering at Cook afterward. "John the Lionhearted! Lionheart! The guy made so many clutch putts today! There he is!"
Cook wasn't gloating, but you could see how much the win meant. Faldo had taken away his British Open at Muirfield in 1992, gaining three strokes on him in four holes after Cook had taken a two-shot lead. "All this time, that's what the whole thing was about," said Cook's father, Jim. "He wanted to play Faldo."
Beck wasn't gloating either, but he could have been. Roundly criticized for having laid up on the par-5 15th at the Masters this year with a chance to win, Beck proved himself grittier than Lava. He won both his matches and is now 6-2-1 in Ryder Cup competition. "Anybody who can criticize Chip Beck now," said Azinger, "better look in the mirror."