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Americans shrug off celebration

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 30, 2002

SUTTON COLDFIELD, England -- Once again, the winning team stormed the green after the decisive putt was holed, celebrating victory.

But unlike the Ryder Cup three years ago, the losing side did not make a big deal out of it.

When Paul McGinley's par putt on the 18th green dropped on Sunday afternoon at the Belfry, European team members ran to greet him, though a group waited in the fairway.

Spain's Sergio Garcia ran to teammate Pierre Fulke and kissed him, though Fulke still was playing Davis Love.

Love was not pleased about the show of emotion. "Sergio is Sergio," he said.

But he would not criticize and thinks the correct outcome occurred. Fulke offered to halve the hole, resulting in a meaningless tie between the players.

"It's a team game, and when it's over, it's over," Love said. "We wanted to walk off and that's the way it should be handled."

Three years ago at Brookline, American players and wives stormed onto the 17th after Justin Leonard sank a long birdie. It clinched the Cup. Trouble was, his opponent, Jose Maria Olazabal, still had a birdie putt.

"Nothing's as bad as what they did three years ago," Garcia said. "The Ryder Cup was over. It's done. If I disturbed anyone, I disturbed my partner."

FRUSTRATED TIGER: As great as he is, there was nothing Tiger Woods could do. U.S. captain Curtis Strange elected to put him last, but before he teed off the Europeans had won four of the first six matches and had a tie. Though engaged in a tense battle with Jesper Parnevik, their match was rendered meaningless on the 17th hole because Europe had clinched.

"It was frustrating," Woods said. "Going down the first hole, Jesper was asking me what I thought about the (score)board. I said, 'Well, I think it's probably going to come down to our match. So let's go out there and let's enjoy it, have some fun, play hard, compete. Let's see what happens.'

"And I wish it would have come down to our match."

SPORTSMANSHIP: Woods will get scrutiny over his Ryder Cup record, which is 5-8-2 after a 2-2-1 performance. But records can be misleading. Woods likely would have won his match with Parnevik, but conceded a 10-foot par putt on the final green, allowing Parnevik to tie.

"The matches were over, I didn't want him to end on missing a putt like that," Woods said. "He fought hard all day."

Said Parnevik: "It was very good of him to give me the putt on 18. That's the kind of player he is."

REDEMPTION: Phillip Price's 3-and-2 victory over Phil Mickelson was huge for the team. And for Price.

"I had quite a bit of negativity surrounding my form," said Price, who had slipped to 119th in the world. "It probably made things worse. I heard one comment that said, 'Do you think you should withdraw from the Ryder Cup,' and I was quite hurt. ... The team pulled me along, and I thank Sam (Torrance) for treating me like I was a serious member of the team, not just some guy who was out of form. I appreciate that."

ROOKIES SHINE: European rookies Price, McGinley, Fulke and Niclas Fasth earned points. Meanwhile, the Americans' only singles victories came from rookies David Toms and Scott Verplank. So much for rookies as liabilities in the Cup.

"I've never been a believer in that," Strange said. "He's a world-class player, qualified for the team. You've won tournaments, you've won enough points to qualify for the team."

CHIP SHOTS: Colin Montgomerie led both teams with 41/2 points, winning three team matches, halving another and getting a singles win. He is unbeaten in singles in his Ryder Cup career. He got the Europeans started with a 5-and-4 victory over Scott Hoch. ... Toms won 31/2 points, the best rookie performance for an American since Chip Beck won 31/2 in 1989. ... It was almost a replay of 17 years ago at the Belfry. Bernhard Langer defeated Hal Sutton in singles, as he did in 1985. Sunday it was 4 and 3. Then it was 5 and 4. Langer has 24 points in 10 Ryder Cups, one behind European leader Nick Faldo.

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