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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 23:34 GMT 00:34 UK
Captain America's plan falls flat
By John Mathews
BBC Sport at Oakland Hills

US captain Hal Sutton
Sutton may need to rethink his tactics

Hal Sutton was full of typical self-assurance on the eve of the Ryder Cup.

After making the opening pairings announcements, he told the media: "The team is ready. It's been calculated what we've done - there's been a plan to it.

"I know maybe y'all haven't seen the plan, but we've seen the plan and everybody is excited."

Well, if he planned to be trailing 6-1 at the end of the first day, everything went beautifully.

The cornerstone of his grand scheme was to send out his best two players in the first match, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

His logic was that putting an early point on the board would be good for American team morale, but Sutton did not account for Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington.

The Europeans birdied the first four holes and eventually beat the United States' superstar duo 2&1.

And it doesn't take a genius to work out what that would have done to team morale.

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods

The way the US players back-slapped Chris Riley as if he has just helped them win the Super Bowl when all he had done was secure a half point and prevent a fourballs clean-sweep spoke volumes.

The Americans had not been ahead at any stage in any match of the morning.

In the foursomes, Sutton stuck with his decision to put Woods and Mickelson together to 'guarantee' at least a point.

Again, it backfired as Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, who trailed by three after four holes, turned it around on the back nine to win by one.

They were virtually gifted the victory after a terribly wayward tee shot by Mickelson left Woods backed up against a boundary fence at 18.

The only full point of the day for the United States came courtesy of the Chris DiMarco-Jay Haas partnership.

You have to imagine that was most definitely not in Sutton's big plan.


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