Garcia remains perfect; Europe puts U.S. team in hole

Sunday, September 24, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Tom Lehman gently pressed his index finger against pursed lips, calculating the best-case scenario for an American team that kept settling for the worst in the Ryder Cup.

And then it got even worse.

Luke Donald crouched to his knees as his 25-foot birdie putt broke toward the 16th hole and disappeared for a birdie that sent Europe another point, setting off another roar at The K Club that shattered Lehman's thoughts.

But not his hopes.

When two days of Ryder Cup matches ended late Saturday afternoon, Lehman and his American team, down 10-6, were reduced to clinging to memories -- seven-year-old snapshots of the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.

At Brookline, the Americans trailed Europe then by the same margin. Then, too, they were led by Lehman, who won the opening singles match as a player that day.

"I know that our team has a chance," said Lehman, now the U.S. captain.

So do the Europeans, who have a chance to make history with their third consecutive victory and a chance for Sergio Garcia to be the first European to pitch a shutout.

Garcia extended his Ryder Cup unbeaten streak to nine matches, Darren Clarke delivered another storybook finish and Paul Casey showed with one magical shot -- a walkoff hole-in-one -- just how much everything is going their way.

The Europeans needed only four points from 12 singles matches remaining to capture the Cup, and an outright victory would be the first time Europe has won three in a row.

"We're getting closer to our mark," captain Ian Woosnam said. "We've got to get over our hurdle [today]."

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