It was the strongest of starts for the European team, the first hole being won by Harrington & Karlsson, Stenson & Casey and Garcia & Westwood. The early leaderboard taking on a blue complection that we've grown accustomed to in recent times, blue for Europe. But where in other years the morning session has gone on to be dominated almost completely by the Europeans, this session was an altogether tighter affair.
The big match of the morning was undoubtedly going to be the first one out. Harrington and Karlsson took control at the first and did not look back for a long time, reaching the 13th hole with a 3 shot advantage and looking good to close out the match. Mickelson had had a photographer ejected from the grounds early on as he had committed the sin of clicking before the ball was struck but had not had much joy until 13. Suddenly the flop shots were broken out as both sides struggled to find greens, Mickelson's epic short game which came to the fore and the pair went on a run of three consecutive wins to draw all square. The pressure was really on Harrington as Kim pulled off a cracking flop shot to get close on 16 and Karlsson, now reeling as his game deserted him somewhat had left him a longish one to stay level with the yanks and steady the ship. Having holed out like he champion he is all day, Padraig duly obliged. A short putt from Karlsson who had been missing in the last few holes, horseshoed around the hole on 17 but eventually found the bottom of the cup to take it up 18.
It came down then to the 457 yards of last hole to decide it. Both Kim and Karlsson found a left hand fairway bunker with their nervous tee shots. Harrington could only top his attempt from the bunker to still be a long way back after two, Mickelson finds a massive front bunker to leave a tough shot for Kim. Not as tough as what Karlsson faced though and the big swede steps up and strikes it to 12 feet from the pin. Anthony Kim then gets too cute with his shot, trying to knock it stone dead he fails to get it out of the bunker as the immense pressure of the Ryder Cup bears down on his young shoulders. Mickelson steps in to show the lad how it's done and gets it to six feet. Padraig Harrington is then left with a 12 footer to grab a point which looked sure to be theirs early on, which shaves the edge, he was sure it was in. Kim rolls in his putt and hands are shaken as they give the Europeans their putt. A fair result in the end.
Somewhat unexpectedly the first group of Europeans to find themselves in arrears was Stenson and Casey who just couldn't get anything going, their putters cold and unable to live with a fired up Mahan and Leonard, a man who'd never won a match at the Ryder in eight attempts. Only one birdie for the Europeans and Casey finding water and all sorts of mistakes left them giving away holes. The Americans never let up on them and they were dormie three on 16 when Justin Leonard holed a 2 and a half footer to win his first match. Hunter Mahan may not have enjoyed the dinners this week but his first taste of Ryder Cup play was a sweet one.
Chad Campbell had one of the most awful front nines a player in the Ryder Cup could imagine, snap-hooking drives all over the shop leaving his partner in all kinds of trouble. At one point, after hoking his drive, leaving Cink no option but to try and dig it out as far as he could into the edge of the rough. Then all Chad could manage was to duff his shot about 20 yards in front of himself. A shot an amateur would be embarrassed at. At this stage Poulter had struck the European ball onto the green in two. Cink gamely gave it a go to reach the green but could only find water. Campbell also missed a three footer to win a hole in one of the most dismal displays you can imagine, leaving the decision of Azinger to go down to a man 22nd on this years money list in America and hand him a wild card looking foolish. Were it not for some Herculean efforts from Stewart Cink the game may have been over in very quick fashion.
That it wasn't over by that point gave Campbell a chance to gather himself and amazingly the big lad started pulling out putts to take holes back from Poulter and Rose. Suddenly it was the European pairing struggling and the one thing I dreaded most occurred. Poulter started shanking it. On 13 he found the water from a prime position to lose the hole and they had gone from the lofty position of three up in the match after 7 to one down after 14. Cink found water himself on 15 however to leave the match finely poised.
Poulter saved face then on 16 with an amazing shot from thick rough left of the green where he judged it to perfection, inches from the hole to grab a half and ensure the match went the distance. On 17 Chad Campbell's driving had again put Cink in a horrible position but Chad struck a cracking third iron shot to six feet and it took an audacious chip shot from Justin Rose with a hybrid club to stay level. The last then saw two lovely drives from Poulter and Cink (lucky it was him driving on this crucial hole, not Chad). Rose didn't catch his approach right though and found that massive front bunker. Chad Campbell, having had an awful, awful morning then had the opportunity to steal this match for America and what do you know, found the middle of the green. Poulter's bunker shot refused to grab on the green and slid ten feet past. Furyk putts to three feet. Rose has a putt to take at least a half but knocks it six feet past. Poulters return putt lips out and having played the worst golf of the day by a long stroke, Chad Campbell adds a win to his Ryder Cup record. It's better to be lucky than good; better still to get carried by Stewart Cink all day it seems. Faldo stares ahead as he envisages the headlines after this, Poulter is devastated.
The premier pairing of Garcia and Westwood did not live up to their billing at all against Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk. Anyone who did put the mortgage on them to win at my behest I apologise profusely...
Kenny Perry's putting was superb, holing from all over the shop all day. He had made it his sole goal to be here this year and was really making the most of it. The elder statesmen of the US side were relentless and looked good to finish it on 17, being 2 up with 2 to play but Perry, having been so solid for so long, misses the putt which would seal the match.
It obviously unsettled Perry as he sees his drive up the 18th find the drink. Crushing for the Kentuckian. Garcia's drive is a peach and Westwood finds the back of the green with his approach. Furyk takes his drop and makes a vain attempt to find the green to rescue the situation but it;s nowhere near enough and he's in the bunker. They play five to 40 feet with the Europeans grinning on the back of the green. They eventually concede the hole and Garcia remains unbeaten in Ryder Foursomes, Westwood extends his unbeaten streak to 11 matches, the record is 12, he can equal it this evening.
So, it's 3-1 to the Americans, this is a new one for us spoiled Europeans. Can we see a rally from Faldo's men?