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2008 - Azinger outfoxes Faldo

Americans claim their biggest victory since Walton Heath in 1981

By Ben Sullivan.   Last Updated: 28/08/12 9:43pm

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Delight for the US team

Delight for the US team

The European team came into the 37th Ryder Cup in the historic position as bookies' favourites - and completely failed to live up to expectations.

USA 16½ EUROPE 11½

USA

Phil Mickelson
Stewart Cink
Kenny Perry
Jim Furyk
Anthony Kim
Justin Leonard
Ben Curtis
Boo Weekley
Steve Stricker
Hunter Mahan
JB Holmes
Chad Campbell

Captain: Paul Azinger

Europe

Padraig Harrington
Sergio Garcia
Lee Westwood
Henrik Stenson
Robert Karlsson
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Graeme McDowell
Justin Rose
Soren Hansen
Oliver Wilson
Ian Poulter
Paul Casey

Captain: Nick Faldo

After three successive wins since 1999 and record victory margins in 2004 and 2006, Europe were widely expected to retain the cup at Valhalla against an inexperienced American team that was missing world number one Tiger Woods due to a knee injury.

Nick Faldo had triumphed over Paul Azinger at the 1987 Open Championship to win his first major and it was assumed - at least on these shores - that he would triumph over his old rival once again.

But even from before the first ball was struck, there were signs (at least with the benefit of hindsight) that the wheel of fortune was about to turn in the Americans' favour.

There were hints of unrest in the European camp over Faldo's wildcard selections and captaincy. His decision to make do with one vice-captain in Jose Maria Olazabal - along with help from his son and DJ Spooney - was in stark contrast to Azinger's choice of four well-respected golfing veterans to assist him.

Even Faldo's rather clumsy comments at the pre-match pageant struck the wrong note, while the urbane 'Zinger assumed exactly the right tone of determined humility.

And that sense of a change in momentum continued once the action began on Friday morning.

For once it was the Americans who made a fast start, winning the morning foursomes 3-1 thanks to victories for Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan over Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey, with Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell beating Justin Rose and Ian Poulter on the 18th green. Ominously, the Americans had not led at the end of any Ryder Cup session since their last victory in the match in 1999.

The afternoon games followed a similar pattern, with Europe able to win just one thanks to Poulter and Rose and Leonard and Mahan again handsome winners, this time 4 and 3, over Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

The Americans led 5½-2½ after day one - their largest lead at that stage since GB and Ireland became Europe in 1979.

Faldo needed to rally his troops and the comeback looked on as Europe won their first series in the morning, Poulter and Rose again leading the way with a 4 and 3 win over Cink and Chad Campbell, while Stenson and Oliver Wilson also won to cut the American lead to 7-5 at lunchtime.

Dug in

Traditionally it is the States who have dominated the Sunday singles, so the visitors desperately needed to make inroads in the afternoon, but the Americans dug in and the series was halved at 2-2.

After cutting the deficit by a point to 9-7 on Saturday night, Faldo announced that momentum was with his side heading into the singles - and once again he got it spectacularly wrong.

Led by the abrasive Anthony Kim - whose cheerleading and fist-pumping had already riled some European players over the first two days - the Americans dominated in the Kentucky sunshine.

Leading from the front in the top match, Kim crushed Europe's talisman Sergio Garcia 5 and 4.

The waves of home-crowd enthusiasm began to sweep the Americans towards a victory that they suddenly seemed to simply want more than their European opponents.

Only Robert Karlsson, Graeme McDowell, Rose and Poulter could manage wins for Europe, as they never threatened to overhaul the Americans.

It fell to Jim Furyk to secure the winning point, the former US Open champion defeating JimĂ©nez on the 17th green to take the US total to an insurmountable 14½ points.

They went on to wrap up victory 16½-11½, their widest winning margin since Walton Heath in 1981 - the eve of the Ryder Cup's 'modern era' of genuine competitiveness.

Most of the Europeans - including Faldo - left Valhalla with their reputations somewhat diminished. The notable exception was Poulter, a captain's pick who scored four points from five matches.

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