Ryder Cup: Europe secure first day lead

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Ryder Cup: Europe secure first day lead

Team Europe recovered from a disappointing morning to finish the first day of the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles with a two point lead.

Despite taking a 2.3-1.5 lead into the opening afternoon of the 40th Ryder Cup, Team USA were quickly behind and chased the game throughout the afternoon, with Justin Rose, Victor Dubuisson and, eventually, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia playing some golf worthy of the competition.

It was a morning that had started brightly for Europe.

In the crisp early-morning Scottish air, the Americans struggled to get a rhythm going and the team of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson failed to make a single birdie as Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson secured a dominant win 5&4.

Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer had been two up with three to play but had to settle for half a point with Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, but home town hero Stephen Gallagher looked out of his depth. 

The talismanic Ian Poulter unable to inspire his rookie partner and struggling to find his own best form.

“Sometimes that dynamic doesn’t go well,” said McGinley of the pairing. “That’s what happens in a Ryder Cup, sometimes things don’t go as well as you would hope.”

The final game of the morning saw a clash of the titans, with world number one Rory McIlroy and world number three Sergio Garcia up against the unbeaten team of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.

The American team secured a point on the final hole, with Bradley saying of the Ryder Cup experience: “It’s unexplainable. It’s like you have drunk 500 cups of coffee at once.”

At the closure of the morning’s fourballs, Team USA found themselves 2.5 to 1.5 up.

Captain Tom Watson said: “This whole early morning was pretty much an ebb from a United States point of view, but then we finally got our flow going.”

McGinley summed up the morning session and was prophetic in saying: “It’s a long road. There’s no need for panic.”

The captain’s words were to ring true and so to the afternoon, with Rose and Stenson again imperious. Defeating Hunter Mahan and Zack Johnson 2&1, the Anglo-Swede pairing  scored six birdies in 17 holes throughout the day.

"It’s a long road. There’s no need to panic"
Rose said he hoped their performance repaid the faith McGinley had placed in putting the pairing out first. 

He added: “It has been really special. To be able to play Ryder Cup matches is such a thrill.”

Rookie Jamie Donaldson teamed with Lee Westwood and brought his excellent putting form into the tournament. The veteran looks in the shape of his life and justified his pick with a solid afternoon match, after missing the opening session for the first time in his Ryder Cup career.

World number one Rory McIlroy had been anonymous throughout the day. But being the best means delivering the goods when the chips are down, and a 40ft putt on the 17th stopped Fowler and Walker in their tracks. The Europeans birdied the final three holes and denied Team USA a consolation point from the afternoon.

A relieved McIlroy said: “We were making life difficult for ourselves out there and neither of us was playing from the fairway very much.”

This was the case on the 18th when a wayward drive needed a touch of tree fortune to bounce back into play. From the friendly lie that resulted, Garcia hit the shot of the day and the point was shared.

“We fought hard,” said the Spaniard. “We knew we weren’t playing good, but half a point is huge.”

The final match of the day was an opportunity for Europe to put the rubber stamp on a successful first day.

Spieth and Reid – the youngest pairing in Ryder Cup history – had played fearlessly in the morning’s fourballs but were rested in the afternoon. Watson instead opted to send Mickelson and Bradley out again. 65-year-old Tom Watson made an error, one he hopes he won’t live to regret.

Guided by Graeme McDowell, Victor Dubuisson’s first Ryder Cup outing ended Mickleson and Bradley’s unbeaten record, and McDowell heaped praise upon his playing partner.

He said: “I always get great partners and this kid is the next superstar in Europe. He’s really, really good.”

Speaking after the day’s play, McGinley said he was fearful when the momentum appeared to be shifting towards the Americans at the close of the morning session, but praised his players for rallying and making the day a success. 

He added: “For our guys to recover as well as they did and for there to be blue on the board within six holes shows a real strength of character.”

A successful first day for Team Europe, but this morning’s scare showed there is still plenty of work to do.

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