Hal Sutton had an all-encompassing blueprint for Ryder Cup success. It took two years for him to create and about two hours for the Europeans to turn it into rubble. By the end of the first day of the 35th Ryder Cup here in Bloomfield Township, Mich., the American Ryder Cup captain hardly could recognize the wreckage of his carefully laid plan.
The Europeans marched into Oakland Hills Country Club and knocked the Americans flat on their keesters, taking 6 1/2 of the first eight points, putting the United States at an opening-day deficit unprecedented in Cup annals.
"We made history today," Sutton said, his words dripping with sarcasm.
Then he laced into his team and that, too, may have been unprecedented in the Ryder Cup. Captains have traditionally been glorified backslappers.
Sutton publicly embarrassed Phil Mickelson (as if Mickelson's two-loss performance paired with Tiger Woods yesterday wasn't embarrassment enough) by deleting him from this morning's fourball matches. And to add insult to injury, he told the assembled media before he told Mickelson.
"I'll tell them when I get back or they'll hear it on TV or something," Sutton said.
He couldn't come up for a reason for Mickelson's performance, which reached a low point on the final hole of the day. Mickelson and Woods had pulled even with Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood in an alternate shot match on the 17th. The point was crucial. Had the American dream team won the 18th, the U.S. would have been down only three points instead of five at 6 1/2-1 1/2.
Mickelson stepped up and almost hit his tee shot on No. 18 off the property. It settled near the boundary fence. Woods had to take a drop and a one-shot penalty. They eventually made double-bogey and lost the match.
"We'll all be scratching our heads on that," Sutton said. "We'll all want answers to that. But the most important person who's going to have to wonder about that is Phil Mickelson.
"It's not going to cause us any grief (this morning) because he's going to be cheering instead of playing."
Earlier in the day, Mickelson and Woods had been overwhelmed by the brilliant playing of Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie. Woods couldn't believe it.
"Geez," he said, "they made eight birdies in 14 holes and birdied six of the first eight. That is awfully impressive."
Kind of sounds like the way others used to talk about Woods.
The Woods-Mickelson pairing was crucial to Sutton's strategy. He put all his eggs in that one basket, hoping to grab the early momentum. But it backfired miserably.
"(Mickelson and Woods) ran into a buzzsaw early, got behind, although they didn't play badly to begin with," Sutton said.
"And then I saw a lot of frustration on their faces after that. I felt the world wanted to see them together, I wanted to see them together and I think they both wanted to see each other together. We gave it a good shot and we're going to have to move on."
But it wasn't just his feature pairing that left Sutton seething. In the morning matches, nobody performed up to expectations.
"It looked to me like the Europeans were trying to make something happen and that we were trying to make sure that nothing bad happened," he said.
"I saw every time we had a chance to put pressure on them, we didn't do it. And they constantly had the pressure on the Americans."
He promised that there would be a team meeting last night and intimated it wouldn't be pretty.
"Oh, yeah," Sutton said. "We're going to have a team meeting. I'm going to have to put the cowboy hat back on. This time I may get the reins out, too, and make them wet.
"I'm just going to tell them to be themselves. They weren't themselves out there (yesterday). Y'all saw very few of the Americans really show up today."
The Americans have come back from big deficits before, most notably at Brookline in 1999 when they went into the final day trailing by four points and then won in a landslide.
But for them to have any chance to do that this weekend they'll have to rebound dramatically today. Whether this team has what it takes to get the job done remains to be seen.