|Europe, USA all even 2-2 after opening matches|
|Posted 9/28/2012 1:19 PM ET|
MEDINAH, Ill. -- The USA needed a little bit of time to warm up on a chilly autumn morning north of Chicago on Friday. But midway through the morning session of foursomes to kick off the 39th Ryder Cup, boisterous winds of change in the favor of the red, white and blue blew in to turn a potential disastrous start on its ear.
Once down 1 up to Europe in all four matches, rookie Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson led a spirited comeback as the USA pulled out a 2-2 draw after the first of five sessions. Bradley and Mickelson took down the undefeated tandem of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia 4 and 3.
Adding to the U.S. charge were rookie Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, who took control with two birdies and zero bogeys after making the turn to win 3 and 2 against Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari.
Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker almost made the comeback even more memorable in their duel against world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. With five holes to play, Snedeker and Furyk were 3 down but won three consecutive holes with birdies to even the match. A poor drive by Snedeker, however, led to a bogey, and McDowell knocked in a 5-footer for par to win the final hole and Europe's first point.
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Europe gained its other point in the anchor match as Ian Poulter and Justin Rose defeated Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods 2 and 1, as Woods sprayed shots all over Medinah and Poulter holed one bunker shot and putt after putt.
"I noticed the board; I'm not going to lie to you," Johnson said. "The one thing I did notice, though, it was very early in the match. This is not a sprint by any means, and it's a marathon. You've just got to stick to your routine, stick to your process."
Europe, which has won six of the last eight Ryder Cups, needs 14 points to retain the Cup it won in 2010 in Wales. The USA needs 14½ to gain possession.
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In the afternoon four-ball matches, Woods and Stricker are again the anchor team for the USA and will face Westwood and rookie Nicolas Colsaerts. Major champions Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson lead off for the USA against Paul Lawrie and rookie Peter Hanson. In the second match, Bradley and Mickelson face McIlroy and McDowell. In the third match, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar face Rose and Martin Kaymer.
That means all 24 players will play on the first day.
DAY 1: How Friday unfolded at Ryder Cup
Bradley and Mickelson won the last four holes against Donald and Garcia, who were 14-0-1 in their careers in foursomes, 4-0-0 as a team. Bradley closed out the match with a 25-foot birdie on the 15th hole.
"He was building me up and I had to kind of hold him down," Mickelson said of Bradley. "I love playing with this man. He's just so fun, loves the game and plays with such excitement and man, can he roll the rock. He played some of his best golf."
Added Bradley: "I feel so comfortable playing with Phil because no matter where I hit it, he'll get it up-and-down."
Johnson and Dufner took their first lead with a birdie on the 10th hole and went 2 up with a birdie on the 15th. A par on the 16th closed out the win.
"I really like this format, this environment," Dufner said. "I feel like there's a little bit less pressure. I'm not trying to post a score, I'm just trying to play golf and enjoy the day and be with a teammate and try to get a point for the team. I'm just caught up in each hole being a point and win points for the team, so that takes a lot of stress out for me."
One hole into the leadoff match, there was a stressful situation between the teams of Furyk and Snedeker and McDowell and McIlroy. The mood of the match turned when McDowell was looking for a free drop after his ball came to rest near a sprinkler head by the second green. But Furyk wouldn't have any of it and said no free drop should be given. The two had a slightly heated discussion, and the first of numerous rules decisions in the morning was made. McDowell asked for a second opinion, got turned down again, and chipped away, and McIlroy missed a par putt to go 1 down.
ESPN golf analyst Paul Azinger remarked, "I think (Furyk and Snedeker) ticked off the Good Humor men," on the second hole.
There was nothing funny about the play of McIlroy and McDowell play as they made five birdies in a six-hole stretch to take command. McDowell made a huge 15-footer for birdie to earn a half on the 14th hole and the two remained 2 up.
But another momentum change occurred and McDowell had to hole a gutsy putt on the last to earn a full point.
"The match epitomized what the Ryder Cup is all about," McDowell said. "We got a healthy lead and they came right back at us. There was lots of tense moments and great passion in the match. It was a great game against two really great competitors. Jim Furyk played particularly magnificent. My job is fairly easy. I've got the best player in the world beside me and he makes my job extremely easy."
But McIlroy knew it was anything but easy.
"We got into a good lead. I had a very makeable birdie putt on 12 and could have extended the lead there, and then they made three good birdies in a row on us," McIlroy said. "They came back at us really hard and we just hung in there. Conditions out there were not easy coming in, and glad we hung on and did what we needed to do."
Woods struggled from his first tee shot. On the seventh, a day after knocking out a fan momentarily with a wayward drive during his practice round, he conked another fan in the head. The ball caromed forward 20 yards, and, from out of the woods, Stricker and Woods still made birdie after Woods knocked the third shot from 57 yards to 3 feet.
But Woods and Poulter couldn't keep recovering and Poulter knocked in a bunker shot on 11 -- needing one last slight rotation of the ball for it to drop into the hole -- and a key par putt from 10 feet on the 16th to keep their U.S. counterparts at bay. The match ended on the 17th when Poulter's tap-in par putt was conceded.
"This for me was a tough match," said Poulter, who improved to 9-3 in Ryder Cup play. "Tiger dealt me two of my three defeats and I never wanted to get another. I have Justin's back and he has mine."
|Posted 9/28/2012 1:19 PM ET|