Ian Woosnam’s European team extended their narrow lead over the USA on Friday afternoon by shading the afternoon foursomes. Three of the four matches were halved, with the other one going to Europe, thus making the overnight score 5-3 to the Europe.
US captain Tom Lehman will have been very pleased with the fighting spirit shown by his men after all four games were at one point going in the favour of the Europeans.
In the opening match, the Irish duo Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley were two up on the 16th tee but could not secure the win after Chad Campbell and Zach Johnson birdied the last three holes to force a tie. With the Ryder Cup often hanging on momentum, it was significant coup for the USA and definitely an opportunity missed for the Europeans.
Arguably the highlight of the afternoon was the match that pitted Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald against the top two players in the world, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. In the end, Donald and Garcia were never behind and clinched a famous victory on the 18th by two holes after Furyk had put his approach shot into the water. Once again Garcia played some wonderful golf, making him the star of the opening day’s action.
The third match of the afternoon saw Henrik Stenson and David Howell take on Stewart Cink and David Toms, and it was another typically tense affair. Neither side led the match at any time by more than a hole and in the end a half was a just result for both sides. Howell played well in his first match of this year’s event and showed no sign of his recent injury troubles, while Stenson enjoyed a solid Ryder Cup debut.
The champagne moment of day one was reserved for the final green and the final match, however. With Europe needing to win the hole to force a tie, Lee Westwood put a mammoth 100-foot eagle putt to six feet and, when Chris DiMarco missed a 12-footer of his own for birdie after a good recovery out of the bunker by Phil Mickelson, the stage was set for Colin Montgomerie to leave his mark on the opening day of the Ryder Cup.
The Scot had endured something of a frustrating day, having lost in the morning fourballs and seen several of his putts miss by a whisker. This time, however, he made no mistake as he confidently rolled in the birdie putt to secure a win on the 18th and a half for Europe. The enormous cheer that rang out around the green was just a taster of what may be in store on Saturday and Sunday as this wonderful event draws closer to a climax.
FRIDAY FOURSOMES RESULTS:
EUROPE 5-3 USA
P Harrington & P McGinley (Eur) halved with C Campbell and Z Johnson (USA)
S Garcia & L Donald (Eur) beat T Woods & J Furyk (USA) 2 holes
D Howell & H Stenson (Eur) halved with S Cink & D Toms (USA)
C Montg’rie & L Westwood (Eur) halved with C DiMarco & P Mickelson (USA)