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  • Ryder Cup: Day One Fourballs

US flex muscles as Europeans flounder

ESPN staff
September 28, 2012
The putts just did not drop at all for Europe on Friday afternoon © PA Photos
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The Ryder Cup gets underway at Medinah Country Club on September 28. ESPN will have extensive coverage of the event - including interactive text commentary, reports and reaction - for all three days.

The United States will take a 5-3 lead into the second day of the Ryder Cup, after European captain Jose Maria Olazabal's pairings failed to pay off on Friday afternoon.

Olazabal's surprise decision to send out Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson in the opening fourballs match backfired spectacularly, as some inspired play from American duo Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson - also playing their first matches of the event - saw them clinch a comfortable 5&4 victory.

Olazabal's marquee double-act of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were then handed a painful defeat to Davis Love III's in-form duo of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson. Both pairs came into the contest after wins in the morning foursomes, but the Northern Irishmen were never ahead in the contest - eventually losing down the 17th (after a spirited fightback) after Mickelson produced a miraculous tee-shot that stopped inches from the cup.

The only point of the session for Europe came in the third match, as Ryder Cup rookie Nicolas Colsaerts produced a performance for the ages to beat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker one-up. Colsaerts' playing partner, Lee Westwood, contributed almost nothing over the course of the contest - as the Belgian made eight birdies and an eagle to win out almost single-handedly.

He was the only bright spot, however, as the final group saw Justin Rose - fighting a similarly lonely battle alongside an out-of-sorts Martin Kaymer - eventually succumbed to the prodigious power and putting prowess of Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

It was a remarkable afternoon of golf from the American team, as they won eight of the opening nine holes of fourballs to finally build some momentum in a contest that had not really sparked into life over the morning foursomes. The one player who did show real quality and passion during that session was rookie Keegan Bradley, and the former US PGA champion built on that in the afternoon - again dazzling with his lengthy drives and unerring putting as he and Mickelson put the much-vaunted pair of McIlroy and McDowell to the sword.

While McIlroy fought valiantly to keep the match alive, in the end the combined brilliance of the two Americans proved too much.

"Baby, I wish I could go 36 more," Bradley joked afterwards. "Oh, man, it could be the best day of my life. It was just so fun. I wish I could play more of these events. It's just a blast."

If Bradley was the star of the day for hosts, then Nicolas Colsaerts was the revelation of the afternoon for the Europeans. With playing partner Westwood failing to make a birdie all day, Colsaerts manfully took on Stricker and Woods alone - producing a record number of birdies for a Ryder Cup novice to eventually, dramatically, eke out what could prove to be a crucial point right at the death.

Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar picked up the win on a good day for the US © PA Photos
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"That was one of the best putting rounds I have ever seen," said Woods, who had seven birdies himself, after the round.

Colsaerts' own verdict was a bit more obscure: "You just have to go with whatever's in your pants."

It was the one high note of an otherwise sorry afternoon for the visitors, one that will leave Olazabal facing questions about his decision to leave the likes of Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald out of the afternoon action.

Westwood was not the only person to contribute little as those stars watched from inside the ropes, as Martin Kaymer failed to offer Justin Rose much support and Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson saw themselves blown out of the water by the major-winning pairing of Simpson and Watson.

Poulter, before the matches played out, said he was not upset to be rested - but Olazabal may nevertheless face fire over his decisions.

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

Strong it may be, but the European team now has a lot of work to do if it is to get back on level terms ahead of Sunday's all-important singles.


Friday fourballs

Europe

United States

Peter Hanson
Paul Lawrie
5&4
Webb Simpson
Bubba Watson
Rory McIlroy
Graeme McDowell
2&1
Keegan Bradley
Phil Mickelson
Lee Westwood
Nicolas Colsaerts
1up
Tiger Woods
Steve Stricker
Justin Rose
Martin Kaymer
3&2
Dustin Johnson
Matt Kuchar


Friday foursomes

Graeme McDowell
Rory McIlroy
1-up
Jim Furyk
Brandt Snedeker
Luke Donald
Sergio Garcia
4&3
Keegan Bradley
Phil Mickelson
Lee Westwood
Francesco Molinari
3&2
Jason Dufner
Zach Johnson
Ian Poulter
Justin Rose
2&1
Tiger Woods
Steve Stricker


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