LOUISVILLE--It's safe to say Nick Faldo probably brought up the 1995 Ryder Cup in any pre-singles matches pep talk, while Paul Azinger likely would not have gone there. The last time the United States held a lead in the Ryder Cup going into singles play, it was in 1995 at Oak Hill CC in Rochester, N.Y. The score was the same as it is today prior to the final session: U.S. 9, Europe 7.
Phil Mickelson, who was playing in his first Ryder Cup, is the only American on this year's side to have experienced the disappointment of that day in upstate New York. Mickelson was victorious in singles, defeating Per-Ulrik Johansson, 2 and 1, in the anchor match, but Europe already had decided things by then.
With a 7 1/2-4 1/2 victory in singles, Europe regained the Cup, 14 1/2-13 1/2. Nick Faldo won a crucial 1-up victory over Curtis Strange, but this year's European captain is only person on his side to have participated at Oak Hill.
America got off a great start in singles at Oak Hill, with Tom Lehman beating Seve Ballesteros, 4 and 3. There were mixed results in the next four matches, but then Europe prevailed in the next four contests. Corey Pavin beat Bernhard Langer in the third-to-last matchup, but the outcome was decided in the penultimate match when little-known Philip Walton beat Jay Haas. Trailing 1 down going to the 18th hole, Haas struggled for a bogey, and Walton two-putted for bogey for the clinching point.
Perhaps in a good omen for the Americans, Haas gained some revenge on Oak Hill's 18th hole this year when he won the Senior PGA Championship. There is also a huge difference between Oak Hill's traditional major-type setup and the more forgiving Valhalla, where the rough is down and birdies have been flowing.
In terms of similarities to other recent Ryder Cups, Faldo's placement of Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington in the last two singles pairings today is reminiscent of how American skipper Curtis Strange arranged Mickelson and Tiger Woods in the 2002 Ryder Cup. Europe's victory was secure earlier in the afternoon at The Belfry, making the last two singles matches irrelevant.
*-- Bill Fields *