Breaking down Monday's singles matches
NEWPORT, Wales -- The bad news for the U.S. Ryder Cup team heading into singles play Monday morning at Celtic Manor Resort is that the Americans trail by three points, are playing in Europe, and their captain, Corey Pavin, neither has any special speeches to deliver to his players tonight nor has a special feeling about a potential comeback, as Ben Crenshaw did in 1999.
But one might just happen, and unlike many years in the recent past, the Americans only need 14 points to retain the cup after their victory in 2008 at Valhalla, while Europe requires 14 1/2 points to take it back.
European captain Colin Montgomerie appeared confident Sunday night, and one partisan writer suggested that it's a given that each of the first six matches was in the bag for Europe. But woe can come to those who assume too much.
The U.S. overcame a bigger deficit in '99, when it trailed 10-6 at The Country Club. Credit to Montgomerie for reminding his team of that debacle. Still, could another U.S. rally unfold? Perhaps. Here's how it could shake out:
Lee Westwood vs. Steve Stricker
Westwood, the central pillar of the European team, tees off having moved up to No. 2 in the world. Looks like a lock, except that Stricker's putting has come around and that could frustrate the Englishman.
Rory McIlroy vs. Stewart Cink
Since being forgotten in the team introductions, Cink has asserted himself as a U.S. leader. McIlroy has seemed shaky in must-make moments. Oh, and Cink, who won the '09 Open Championship, is good on foreign soil.
USA 2 and 1
Luke Donald vs. Jim Furyk
Another obvious European win that won't be so. Furyk is 4-1-1 in singles, which includes wins over Nick Faldo and Sergio Garcia.
USA 1 up
Martin Kaymer vs. Dustin Johnson
Johnson gets the shot at Kaymer that he missed at Whistling Straits thanks to his bunker gaffe. Unless he starts making putts, Kaymer is likely to methodically wait him out.
Europe 3 and 1
I__an Poulter vs. Matt Kuchar__
Two men playing well, making five and four birdies, respectively, in their four-ball matches Saturday. Edge to Poulter in experience and home crowd.
Europe 1 up
Ross Fisher vs. Jeff Overton
Fisher appears on the upswing after two wins with Padraig Harrington. Overton's putter has cooled considerably since his opening blitz.
USA 4 and 2
Miguel Angel Jimenez vs. Bubba Watson
The Mechanic meets the Masher.
USA 2 and 1
Francesco Molinari vs. Tiger Woods
No way Woods loses to Italians twice in Ryder Cup singles.
Woods 4 and 2
Edoardo Molinari vs. Rickie Fowler
The third match pairing rookies, but Fowler is less the rookie with his Walker Cup experience and grit.
Peter Hanson vs. Phil Mickelson
Mickelson's three losses this week give him the most in Ryder Cup history. He's 3-4 in singles and doesn't have much going. Who knows if his arthritis is holding him back. He'd be toast if not for uncanny talent.
USA 2 and 1
Padraig Harrington vs. Zach Johnson
Harrington has two wins with Fisher doing most of the heavy lifting. But he might have something to prove. Johnson is playing his own ball for the first time.
Europe 1 up
Graeme McDowell vs. Hunter Mahan
McDowell, the U.S. Open champion, is the anchorman just in case there is a total meltdown in front of him. Mahan, also playing his own ball for the first time, will make him work on every hole.
That's 14-14. Possible? As Monty himself said, "It's match play. Anything's possible."