Golf notes: Europe storms ahead
Bolstered by the sight of blue on every leaderboard, the Europeans won five matches and halved the last one when Francesco Molinari knocked in a 3-foot birdie putt on Sunday, giving them a 91/2-61/2 lead over the United States in the Ryder Cup at Newport, Wales.
Europe needs to win only five of the 12 singles matches today to reclaim the gold trophy.
Lee Westwood teamed with Luke Donald to demoralize Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, who had never lost in six previous matches. Europe was 4 up when matches resumed, and Westwood promptly knocked in a 30-foot birdie putt to win the hole. His team went on to a 6-and-5 victory.
Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar were the only Americans to lead in a match. They were 1 up playing the 18th until Molinari stuffed his wedge into 3 feet for a half-point that left Kuchar and his teammates sagging their shoulders as they trudged off the course.
Dustin Johnson, who joined Phil Mickelson as the only American without a point, and Jim Furyk were on the cusp of a big rally until Johnson three-putted for bogey on the 14th to fall 2-down. They never caught up against Padraig Harrington and Ross Fisher.
Bill Haas overcame five bogeys in the final round to finish 15 under and win the Viking Classic at Madison, Miss., by three strokes, his second victory of the year.
The $648,000 winner’s purse jumped Haas to No. 26 on the money list and earned him a spot in the Masters and the U.S. Open. The win also extended his exemption through 2013.
Michael Allen came as close to being a threat as anyone. He tied Haas at 14 under at the 12th, but Allen drove out of bounds on the next hole and ending up with a double bogey. The 51-year-old finished at 12 under after his final-round 71.
Gary Hallberg shot a record-setting 11-under 61 to win the Ensure Classic at Conover, N.C., by one stroke ahead of Fred Couples.
Hallberg finished at 18 under, tying the event record at the Rock Barn Golf and Spa and winning his first career Champions Tour title.
Couples, who led the tournament after Saturday’s second round, had a chance to force a playoff, but he missed an 8-foot putt for birdie on No. 18. He shot 67 on Sunday.