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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 September, 2004, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Unlikely heroes and villains
By John Mathews
BBC Sport at Oakland Hills

Phil Mickelson
Mickelson was a spectator for Saturday's fourballs

The fall from grace of Phil Mickelson has been one of the real surprises at this Ryder Cup - along with the emergence of Chris Riley.

Mickelson came in rated as the best American player behind Tiger Woods, but looks set to leave with his professional image having taken something of a battering.

He might have contributed to the only American point in the Saturday foursomes, but Mickelson has been pounded by the critics here.

His decision to switch to a different club manufacturer just a fortnight before the Ryder Cup confused and worried a lot of golf fans in the United States.

Why make a risky move to unfamiliar woods on the eve of such an important event?

The reason, principally, seems to have been a contract dispute with his previous suppliers and when things started to go wrong for the left hander, the questions about his wisdom came thick and fast.

And things really did go awfully badly for Mickelson on the opening day.

Dream come true for 'Riles'

Two defeats when Tiger Woods is your playing partner takes some doing and his spectacularly wayward tee shot in the foursomes match against Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood will live long in the memory.

So will the expression on the face of Woods.

When Mickelson took a 28-handicapper's slice towards the boundary fence, leaving Woods with no chance to recover, Tiger's look of thunder drew gasps and laughs from all those who saw it on the giant TV screens.

Mickelson was dropped for the following fourballs and no-one was surprised - he admitted to having a sleepless night after his tormenting day.

Contrast that with how at-ease Woods seemed to be when paired with rookie Riley in Saturday's fourballs.

Chris Riley and Tiger Woods
We've known each other for a long time
Riley on Woods

America's star player was visibly relaxed and happy to be playing alongside the goofy-looking Riley.

Riley described it as "a dream come true".

The chemistry between the two was obvious as they faced Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter.

And when Riley - Tiger calls him 'Riles' - knocked a beautiful nine iron stone dead inches from the flag at the par-three 13th, Woods actually burst out laughing.

Quite a change from the scowls of the day before.

Their 4&3 victory helped give Woods his first point of this contest and set up what the Americans hoped would be the start of their comeback.

That never materialised, but look out for Riley in years to come... you sense this is the beginning of a glittering Ryder Cup career.


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