|ESPN.com: Ryder Cup 2004||[Print without images]|
Hal Sutton made a monumental blunder by pairing Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in opening-day play at the Ryder Cup. It's fitting that Oakland Hills Country Club is just outside Detroit since making two guys play together who barely speak to each other is the biggest Motor City mistake since the Edsel -- the king of car flops. Not only did Sutton waste his two most intimidating players by pairing them, but he also put them out in the first match of the day. And when Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington took a 2-up lead over Woods and Mickelson after three holes of the better-ball match it gave the European team the emotional lift they rode to a 3½ to ½ morning lead. That lead grew to 6½ to 1½ in the afternoon alternate-shot competition. The fact that Woods and Mickelson squandered a 3-up lead in their alternate-shot match against Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood and lost 1-down only served to magnify the mistake. In the opening-day match-up of captains, Bernhard Langer waxed Sutton 5 and 4. The only explanation for Sutton's blunder is that he was so concerned that the American team was not as jacked up as the Europeans that he gambled in an effort to create an early emotional springboard for his side. The exact opposite happened. The crowd was taken out of play so early and to such an extent that at times it seemed as if many among the 40,000 people on hand had started to adopt the underdog Europeans in part because they are just a more fun group of guys. Sutton has only one choice for Saturday and that is to split up Woods and Mickelson and try to spread around whatever intimidation factor the No. 2 and No. 4 players in the world have left. Keeping the Dream Team together might work out about as well for Sutton here as the Dream Team worked out in the Athens Olympics for another guy with Detroit connections -- Pistons coach Larry Brown.
-- Ron Sirak
Until recently, Tiger Woods was the No. 1 golfer in the world for more than five years running. Phil Mickelson is No. 4 and the defending Masters champion. They are easily the sport's most recognizable faces and, between them, are the United States' most formidable players. So how can you fault Hal Sutton for putting them together? They are plenty of people more at fault than Sutton:
-- Jason Sobel