The US opened up a one-point lead over Europe at the Ryder Cup yesterday as the opening four-balls were finally completed after the rain-affected opening day.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods and partner Steve Stricker fired the defending champions into a 2.5 to 1.5 lead at Celtic Manor after wrapping up a two-up victory over English duo Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher.
It was a psychological blow for US captain Corey Pavin’s team as they seek to score the first US victory on foreign soil since 1993. Not since 1999 has a team come back from losing the opening session to win the coveted trophy.
“The team got off to a good start overall,” Stricker said. “The atmosphere here is unbelievable — pro-Europe of course, but great to be a part of it.”
Earlier, Ryder Cup veteran Lee Westwood and Germany’s Martin Kaymer had put Europe’s first point on the board with a three and two victory over world No. 2 Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.
“It’s always nice to get the first point on the board. It’s good to be here and it makes all the rehab worth it,” said Westwood, whose participation had been in doubt after he suffered a calf injury in August.
Westwood also paid tribute to rookie Kaymer, who contributed important birdies on the ninth and 11th on Friday to resist a charge by Mickelson.
“I get on really well with Martin. He is a fantastic player and he has got a lot of bottle,” Westwood said. “When he was needed in the middle of the round, he holed some good putts and made some good birdies.”
There was more for Europe to cheer about in the second four-ball, where Northern Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell clawed back a two-hole overnight deficit to halve against Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar.
McIlroy, who had struggled on Friday, was the hero for Europe, holing a magnificent long putt on the par-three 17th to level the match.
“I said to GMac [McDowell] going down 17 before we got to the green, let’s just try and make two here, and try and win this match, and I was able to do that,” McIlroy said. “It was an unbelievable feeling.”
However, there were no such heroics for Europe in the fourth match, where US rookies Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton coasted to a three and two victory over Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.
Overton rattled in five birdies over the final 10 holes as the US duo became the first rookies to win an opening session since 1979.
After the first day’s play was ruined by torrential rain on Friday, players headed back onto the course at 8am in sunny, but cold conditions.
Friday’s delay forced the organizers to unveil an improvised schedule for the remainder of the weekend’s action.
A second session of six foursomes were to be played yesterday. A third session of play would then comprise two foursomes and four four-balls, followed by the traditional 12 singles matches today, weather permitting.
However, Cup officials have admitted the tournament is at the mercy of the weather, and with more rain forecast for today, there is a possibility of the event finishing on a Monday for the first time in its history.