The United States emerged victorious from a pulsating first day’s play in the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club,dominating the afternoon fourballs to take a 5-3 overall lead. In a format that habitually favours the Europeans,Davis Love’s team took the fourballs 3-1 after sharing the alternate ball foursomes 2-2 in the morning’s play on Friday.
All 24 players were in action during a day which started so promisingly for Europe but which ended so positively for the United States who are out to regain the trophy lost in Wales two years ago. The American heroes were rookie Keegan Bradley,showing passion and talent in securing two points with Phil Mickelson,who was winning a record ninth US cap,and Bubba Watson who fired up the big Chicago crowd with his attacking game.
Tiger Woods was out of sorts for most of the day,losing twice with established partner Steve Stricker. For Europe,Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts excelled with an eagle and eight birdies,but eyebrows were raised over captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s non-selection of Ryder Cup firebrand Ian Poulter for the fourballs after he and Rose had beaten Woods and Stricker in the morning.
Rory McIlroy played both sessions with fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell and they met with mixed success,winning in the morning and losing in the afternoon. The US charge in afternoon was spearheaded by Watson who teamed up with US Open champion Webb Simpson to crush Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson 5 and 4.
Then,the on-fire pairing of Mickelson and Bradley led all the way to see off a tired-looking McDowell and McIlroy 2 and 1 in what was the pick of the later matchups. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar made it 3-0 with a 3 and 2 win over Rose and Martin Kaymer before Colsaerts put on one of the greatest putting displays in Ryder Cup history to carry Lee Westwood on to a one hole win over Woods and Stricker.
Earlier in the day,the atmosphere at Medinah,at 7,658 yards the longest course in Ryder Cup history,was electric as McDowell got proceedings under way shortly after the crack of dawn in chilly conditions. But it soon deflated as Europe took an early command,leaving US skipper Love complaining that it was all too quiet for his liking.
Europe were ahead in all four of the foursomes as the lead group stood on the eighth green,but it was Mickelson and Bradley that led the US fightback. At one stage the advantage was briefly with the Americans,but a share of the spoils to get things going seemed a fair result for the morning’s play.
It was the first time that had happened in the opening session of the Ryder Cup since 1997 at Valderrama in Spain. All that was to change in afternoon though as the United States took command and Europe will need to quickly redress the balance in second round of foursomes and fourballs.