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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 September 2006, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
Dominant Europe extend Ryder lead
Europe's Sergio Garcia
Garcia has been an inspiration for Europe at the K Club
Europe go into Sunday's singles at the K Club as clear favourites to claim an unprecedented third consecutive Ryder Cup victory over the United States.

Ian Woosnam's team will take a 10-6 lead into the final day's singles after a second day of superb pairs golf at the County Kildare course.

They need 4 points from 12 matches to win outright, although four points would be enough to retain the trophy.

The US team will look to bounce back after losing all four sessions so far.

Europe have not lost the contest since 1999 at Brookline, when they held a similar advantage going into the final day.

"We're getting closer to our mark but we've just got to get over that hurdle," said a delighted Woosnam.

"Don't get too excited - you know how strong America are in the singles. But I've got to say that in strength and depth this is the best team we've had."

Colin Montgomerie - plus other quotes of the day on our blog
Woosnam has picked veteran Colin Montgomerie for the first singles match, where he faces David Toms.

Local hero Padraig Harrington takes on Scott Verplank in the final game.

Trailing 5-3 going into Saturday, the Americans needed big performances from their main men and once again they failed to deliver.

Captain Tom Lehman's star pairing of Tiger Woods, who was awful in the fourballs, and Jim Furyk did find some form in the afternoon, beating Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley.

But they were well-beaten in the morning and Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson contributed nothing.

That pairing, so successful at last year's Presidents Cup, was broken up in the afternoon as Lehman rested the misfiring DiMarco and partnered a lacklustre Mickelson with Toms.

It did not work as those two ran into the white-hot Sergio Garcia and the super-steady Luke Donald.

The Spaniard, still only 26, has been nothing short of spectacular these past two days in Ireland, and he has now won an incredible 15 points from 19 games in Ryder Cup play.

Four for four at the K Club - two fourballs wins with compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal and two foursomes wins with Donald - Garcia has now won eight straight foursomes matches.

Tiger Woods
Woods has looked nothing like a multiple major winner in US colours

Woods, on the other hand, continues to struggle in this event. He and Furyk have won two points from a possible four but it is the world number three, not Tiger, that has done most to secure those.

Garcia may still lack Woods' unrivalled ability to get the job done on a Sunday in a major but his Ryder Cup record is fast becoming the stuff of legend.

Not that "El Nino" is Woosnam's only hero at this 36th edition of the biennial battle.

Darren Clarke continued his emotional return to competitive golf following the death of his wife Heather last month.

The popular Northern Irishman teamed up with good friend and fellow wildcard Lee Westwood in the morning to hand Woods and Furyk a 3&2 defeat that was more convincing than the scoreline suggests.

Clarke was rested for the foursomes once more and Westwood reprised his Friday partnership with Colin Montgomerie to halve a tight contest with Chad Campbell and Vaughn Taylor, who was making his first ever Ryder Cup appearance.

Westwood narrowly missed a chance to take a whole point with a 12ft putt at the last but he has won three points from four games, more than vindicating Woosnam's decision to give him a spot on the team.

The day's most crushing victory and best shot were provided by the Paul Casey-David Howell partnership.

Europe's Paul Casey celebrates his hole-in-one
Casey's hole-in-one sealed a dominant victory for him and David Howell

They saw off Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson 5&4 in the afternoon foursomes with the in-form Casey closing out the game with a hole-in-one at the 14th.

The sensational four-iron was only the fifth ace in Ryder Cup history and the first since fellow Englishman Howard Clark's in 1995.

"It's probably something that will go down in history. I've seen holes in one at the Ryder Cup, but to close out a match is something different," said Casey.

Having won the World Match Play at Wentworth last week and overtaken Howell's lead in the European Order of Merit, the 29-year-old from Cheltenham is in the form of his life.

The two rookies on the European team, Sweden's Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson, have also played their part.

For the second straight day, Karlsson combined with Casey to claim a half in the morning fourballs - Casey birdieing the last to square the game - and Stenson was unfortunate to come up against Johnson in better form than he displayed in the afternoon.

The American rookie was dreadful in the foursomes with Cink but played the best round of the week in the morning, carding seven birdies in 17 holes, to seal a 2&1 win with Scott Verplank over Stenson and Harrington.

With every European player having featured at least twice - and all contributing at least half a point - the prospects of an American comeback looks remote.

The 12 singles have traditionally been an American strength but even this trend has changed in recent Ryder Cups - the Europeans have won three of the last five singles sessions.

And having won all four of this year's pairs sessions by a 2-1 margin, they should go into Sunday's finale full of confidence.

For Lehman there are few options left. He must hope for a fast start and pray that panic sets in amongst the Europeans.

"It is a long way to come back from but we have done it before," said American world number three Jim Furyk.





Ryder Cup scoreboard
21 Sep 06 |  Golf


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