USA take opening day lead

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The Americans bossed the first day of the Ryder Cup at Medinah, and will take a 5-3 lead into the weekend.

The Americans bossed the first day of the Ryder Cup at Medinah, and will take a 5-3 lead into the weekend’s fixtures.

Graeme McDowell, partnered with Rory McIlroy, hit the opening shot on the first tee in defence of the trophy, and it was honours even after the morning foursomes. That was as good as it got for the Europeans, with captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s surprise pairings stumbling in the afternoon session.

Olazabal had decided to send Peter Hanson and Paul Laurie out first, but Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson cruised to a comfortable 5&4 win in front of a partisan crowd. “I told the European team if I’m going to play bad I’m going to at least have fun on the first tee shot,” explained Watson, who had egged the spectators on even as he set up his opening shot.

Lawrie and Hanson just about stayed in touch, Lawrie’s first birdie of the day coming on the fifth, but the American pair always looked in control and when Watson collected three consecutive birdies from the sixth to move six ahead after eight holes and seven under par, a record defeat threatened.

The Europeans avoided that ignominy thanks to Simpson’s birdie on the 10th and Lawrie’s on the 11th, but on the par-five 14th Watson hit the green in two shots to set up a straightforward birdie, the American pair eventually finishing 10 under par.

Then came the most painful defeat of the afternoon for Europe, with Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell – who had found success in the morning foursomes – succumbing to Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson.

The Americans quickly went three up with three birdies to start, and were four ahead after the eighth. McIlroy and McDowell pulled it back to three down with a win on the ninth, and McIlroy closed the gap further with a pinpoint chip to set up a birdie on the 14th. The unfazed Bradley matched his birdie on the 15th, however, and Mickelson effectively wrapped up the match with a superb tee shot on the 17th.

With Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar sealing a 3&2 victory over Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer, the major surprise of the afternoon came when Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker lost to Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts.

Indeed, the rookie Colsaerts virtually won the match single-handed, opening up with three birdies from the first five holes and landing a long-iron approach five feet from the hole for an eagle three – the first of the event – on the 10th. In all, he carded eight birdies and an eagle. Westwood had failed to make a birdie all day.

“That was one of the best putting rounds I have ever seen,” said Woods, who had seven birdies himself.

Despite that performance, Olazabal will rue his decision to leave players such as Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald out of the afternoon session, and Europe have a major challenge to draw level before Sunday’s singles.

“Well, I would love to have played five matches, but I realise that we are a team,” said Poulter after the day’s action. “That team is very, very, very strong this year, and Ollie really wanted to kind of get everybody playing on Friday.”

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