Casey's ace drives home rout

Saturday, September 23rd 2006, 12:38 pm
By: News On 6

STRAFFAN, Ireland (AP) _ The opponent was already discouraged, the competition well out of hand.

Then Paul Casey took out the whoopin' stick _ a 4-iron to be exact _ and made a hole-in-one to end his match and pound home another discouraging message to the United States at the Ryder Cup.

Casey's ace _ the fifth in Ryder Cup history _ closed out a 5-and-4 romp for he and David Howell over Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, part of a dominating afternoon in which Europe expanded its lead to 10-5.

``Nice,'' Casey said. ``It's my first hole-in-one. We played great golf today, but it was just one of those days.''

The Casey-Howell rout in the afternoon foursomes was only a small part of it.

They closed it out minutes after Sergio Garcia improved to 4-0 this week, combining with Luke Donald for a 2-and-1 win over Phil Mickelson and David Toms. Garcia moved to 14-3-2 lifetime. Mickelson fell to 1-8-1 over his last 10.

Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood added another half point with a tie against Chad Campbell and Vaughn Taylor.

Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk had a 3-up lead over Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley through 15, but the table already has been set. It will take nothing less than another Brookline miracle for the Americans to avoid losing this tournament. In 1999 at Brookline, the U.S. team trailed 10-6 after two days but won 8 1/2 of 12 points on the final day to win the cup in the biggest comeback in Ryder Cup history.

Before Casey's hole-in-one, it was Garcia doing most of the wowing on a dominating day at The K Club.

The par-5 16th hole defined his relentlessness in these team events. He drove the ball deep into the right rough, and Donald hacked out into a muddy mess of wood chips about 100 yards from the hole. Meanwhile, Mickelson hit his tee shot safely into the fairway.

Garcia had no business winning that hole and Mickelson had no business losing it, but that's how it went.

``I don't know,'' Garcia said when asked the secret to his success. ``Good partners help. Luke and myself make a really good couple.''

Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal made a good couple, too. The new ``Spanish Armada'' set the tone in the morning with a 3-and-2 win over Mickelson and Chris DiMarco in better-ball.

And on it went for both teams. Europe's emotional leader, Darren Clarke, chipped in on No. 16 to end his 3-and-2 win with Lee Westwood over Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk in the morning. Clarke stood on the sideline and smoked a cigar in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, American captain Tom Lehman looked like he wanted to cry as the afternoon wore on and the rout worsened.

``This is obviously a really important afternoon for us,'' he said before the foursomes began. ``We need good things to happen. But you never know in sports. Funny things can happen.''

It will take more than just funny now.

One of the few glimmers of hope is that Sunday is about singles, in which the United States has fared better over the years. When it comes to the two-man game, though, nobody does it better than Europe _ Garcia best of all.

He put on a clinic in both matches.

Teamed with Olazabal on the par-3 eighth, Garcia hit his tee shot dangerously close to the water, but it stayed up. He chipped to within tap-in range to guarantee his par. That gave Olazabal the freedom to be aggressive on his 15-foot birdie putt, which he made to go 2 up on Mickelson and DiMarco. On the next hole, Garcia made a 10-footer to expand the lead to 3 up.

Then, the defining moment of the morning: Olazabal sinking a 15-foot birdie on No. 10 and Garcia rushing to the cup to pull out the ball. Yeah, these guys really take this ``team'' thing seriously.

Olazabal and Garcia improved to 2-0 on the week.

``I felt comfortable yesterday,'' Olazabal said, ``and I felt the same today playing with Sergio.''