Advantage USA

Europe claimed first blood in the rain-delayed Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, but the US secured the lead after the opening fourballs.

Europe today claimed the first point in the rain-delayed Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor – but the United States led in the remaining three fourball matches.
Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer had looked the home side’s strongest pairing and so it proved as they beat Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson 3&2 in the opening match.
However, the surprise rookie pairing of Jeff Overton and Bubba Watson were also closing in on victory in the bottom match against Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington, the American duo three up with five to play.
Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar were one up on Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy with four to play, largely on the back of five birdies from Cink.
And Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods were one up on Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher after Stricker chipped in from short of the 12th green for a winning birdie.
Westwood, playing his first match since August 6 after a calf injury which threatened his participation, said: “It’s good to be here, it makes the hard work and the rehab worth it.
“But like other Ryder Cups I picked a good partner. The atmosphere seems to get better – every green, every tee and down the fairways they are screaming your name. It’s unbelievable.
“Of course it’s nice to get the first point on the board, Monty sent us out with that intention and goal.”
Kaymer, who has won his last two tournaments – including the USPGA Championship – added: “You have goose bumps on pretty much every hole.
“Yesterday on the first five or six holes I was nervous, I was not used to the pressure, but then I took a nap and now I can’t wait to play the foursomes.”
The biggest roar of the week so far came on the 17th as McIlroy rolled in a birdie putt from 30ft to level the second match, the 21-year-old punching the air in delight and shouting “Come on” at the top of his voice as the crowd erupted.
That ensured at least one match would go down the par-five 18th, a potentially treacherous hole with water guarding the front of the elevated green.
Fisher and Poulter remained one down with three to play, Fisher and Stricker making birdie on the 15th after Woods had carved his tee shot deep into the crowd.
All four players found the 18th fairway but Kuchar and McDowell were too far back to go for the green and sensibly laid up.
Cink and McIlroy went for it in two, but Cink’s came up just short of the green and rolled back down the steep slope into the water, while McIlroy – who hit the longest drive – hit an awful approach which never threatened to find dry land.
“I’ve got you covered, it’s all right,” McDowell said to McIlroy as they walked down the fairway, but his heart was in his mouth moments later when his pitch span back past the flag and was lucky to stop millimetres short of rolling into the water as well.
That left McDowell and Kuchar with putts of around 20ft for birdie, but neither player was able to convert and the match was halved.