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FAXON'S BAGGAGE ALWAYS RETURNS TO OAK HILL

Brad Faxon came to Spain for the Ryder Cup with two very different images from his golfing life packed away in his baggage.

One would be the curling 17-foot putt he made on the last hole on the last day at Riviera Country Club in the 1995 PGA Championship that earned him a place on the Ryder Cup team.

The other is the right-to-left, downhill 7-foot putt he missed on the last hole of the last day at Oak Hill Country Club in the 1995 Ryder Cup that has stuck with him ever since.

When Faxon missed at Oak Hill, he missed halving his match with David Gilford, it was a one-point swing and the U.S. lost the Cup, 14 1/2 -13 1/2 .

There are many photographs of Faxon, eyes closed, lifting his putter in front of his face in disbelief.

As luck and fortune and coincidence would have it, there was Faxon facing another important putt and irony tapping on his shoulder once again.

Faxon, the 36-year-old freckled redhead from Barrington, R.I., needed to guide a slightly downhill 5-foot putt with a right-to-left break to win Friday morning's four-ball match on opening day.

This time, the ball went in. Faxon and his partner, Fred Couples, defeated Nick Faldo and Lee Westwood, 1-up, in what was either a blatant case of retribution or simply a first-day match.

Faxon said it was both.

"Oak Hill is going to hurt forever because that putt didn't go in and we didn't win," Faxon said.

"But we are comparing things that are a little different. This is just the first day, not the last."

It has been a tough summer for Faxon. After getting off to a fast start this season that all but locked up his automatic spot on the Ryder Cup team, Faxon's game fell off dramatically. It was recently reported that Faxon's wife, Bonnie, had filed for divorce, seeking to end their 10-year marriage.

Asked if it was difficult to come into this event with a clear mind, Faxon said, "I haven't done it the whole summer, but this event makes you concentrate because it's all about golf. I can't tell you what this means to me."
The BBC, known for its even-handed treatment of world news, drops all semblance of neutrality in the Ryder Cup.

"Let's not get downhearted, there's a long way to go," said one radio announcer covering the match as the Europeans lost a hole.

And this on the 10th in better-ball when Nick Faldo missed a 5-foot putt: "Faldo for birdie. . . . Oh, the putt rims the hole. A chance gone, a chance gone."

They also cheered for the Swedes, Jesper Parnevik and Per-Ulrik Johansson. "What a turnaround for these Swedes, what a turnaround for these Swedes. They're 1-up after nine," a commentator said.

And finally, when Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson missed birdie putts on the 18th hole to lose their better-ball match to Costantino Rocca and Jose Maria Olazabal, there was this: "What a great win for these guys, turning it around. What a psychological blow for the Americans."

The pressroom also erupted with loud applause when Europe won a match. There was dead silence when the Americans won.
The American players arrived in Spain on the Concorde. But their caddies got here the best way they could -- and they're reportedly not happy about the it. Two years ago, European caddies accompanied the players on the team flight. . . . European tour officials denied reports that the 2001 Ryder Cup will be moved from The Belfry near Birmingham, England, to Scotland's Loch Lomond. "There will be no discussions at all regarding the moving of the match," said PGA executive director Sandy Jones.

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