Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Europe extend Ryder Cup lead

GOOD MORNING Ian Woosnam's team added one more point to their overall lead by winning two matches and halving another of yesterday morning's fourballs

AGENCIES , STRAFFAN, IRELAND

European Ryder Cup players Jose Maria Olazabal, center, and Sergio Garcia, right, of Spain line up a putt on the first green as the US' Phil Mickelson looks on during their fourball match at the Ryder Cup in County Kildare, Ireland, yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

World No. 1 Tiger Woods lost his second successive match as Ryder Cup holders Europe grabbed a 7 1/2 to 4 1/2 lead after the morning fourballs yesterday -- their third successive session win.

Woods was well below his best on Friday and again sprayed the ball all over the K Club course on the second day as he and Jim Furyk were beaten 3 & 2 by wildcards Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.

Jose Maria Olazabal equaled the all-time fourballs record after combining with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia to defeat Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco 3 & 2.

Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson won the last hole to halve with Stewart Cink and J.J. Henry while rookie Zach Johnson chipped in at the 17th as he and Scott Verplank triumphed 2 & 1 over Henrik Stenson and Padraig Harrington.

"Lee played great today," Clarke told reporters after sealing victory by chipping in at the 16th. "If we had putted better we would have been more under par than we were."

"People said we were a wildcard gamble and the people who were sure it wasn't a gamble were the two of us. We enjoy playing with each other," he added.

Europe began the session with a 5-3 lead on another day of sharply contrasting weather, torrential rain mixed with spells of bright sunshine.

Westwood produced a hat-trick of magical approach shots early on. He holed from three feet at the first but spurned birdie chances from seven feet at the second and five feet at the third.

CONSECUTIVE BIRDIES

Clarke came to the party at the fourth and fifth, holing from four and three feet for consecutive birdies.

Woods missed from four feet at the eighth, three feet at the ninth and eight feet at the 13th before reaching a new low by finding the water at the 15th.

Four down with four to play, Furyk came to the rescue by holing a six-footer to win the US pair's first hole of the day but it was too little too late.

European skipper Ian Woosnam provided his own unique brand of leadership, planting a kiss on the cheeks of Garcia and Olazabal before they took on the heavyweight pair of Mickelson and DiMarco.

The Spanish duo, suitably inspired by their skipper, grabbed two birdies in the first four holes to go one up.

Garcia was inches away from finding the water hazard at the eighth before his partner sank a 12-foot birdie putt to extend their advantage.

The 26-year-old Garcia sank a 10-footer for another birdie at the ninth and Olazabal birdied the 10th to put the Europeans four up.

WOOSNAM RECORD

The writing was on the wall for the US when DiMarco found water at the 13th and the Spaniards coasted home.

The win meant Olazabal equaled Woosnam's record fourballs tally of 10 1/2 points.

"Jose played amazing today," said Garcia. "I don't think he missed a fairway."

Cink and Henry, who came from three down on Friday to halve their match with Casey and Karlsson, produced a similar performance to claim another half.

Karlsson chipped in for a birdie at the second and World Match Play champion Casey added further birdies at the fourth and eighth to go two up, the latter after rolling in an 18-foot putt.

Cink birdied the 10th to reduce the deficit and rookie Henry eagled the 16th and birdied the 17th to turn the match around.

Casey then birdied the par-five last to earn a half.

Johnson, 30, was the outstanding performer on either side, firing seven birdies as he partnered the experienced Verplank to a 2 and 1 victory over Harrington and Stenson.

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