All square at Medinah
Published 28/09/2012 | 18:52
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell breathed a huge sigh of relief after helping Europe emerge from the opening session of the Ryder Cup tied at 2-2 with the United States.
The Northern Irish pair were sent out first by captain Jose Maria Olazabal and had talked confidently about getting European blue on the board early, but almost squandered a three-hole lead with six to play against Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker.
With Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia already suffering their first ever foursomes defeat in the event in match two, the top match took on further significance and it was Snedeker who cracked under the pressure on the last.
Snedeker, who on Sunday held his nerve to win the FedEx Cup and more than 11million US dollars, carved his tee shot way off line into a hospitality area to leave Furyk only able to pitch through the trees onto the fairway.
That eventually led to a bogey five but McIlroy was fortunate to see his drive clip some trees and bounce back to the edge of the fairway, from where McDowell dragged his approach into a greenside bunker.
World number one McIlroy hit a good recovery shot to five feet and McDowell held his nerve to seal the win. The former US Open champion said: "That match to me just personifies the Ryder Cup. Myself and Rory played some great golf to go three up, and then you're playing against two very gutsy players who clawed their way back to all square coming down the last two holes."
Donald and Garcia had won all four of their foursomes outings together, winning twice in the routs at Oakland Hills in 2004 and the K Club in 2006, while Garcia was also unbeaten in nine foursomes appearances overall and Donald had won six out of six. But they ran into an inspired rookie in Keegan Bradley and four-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who won four holes in a row from the 12th to put the first point on the board with a 4&3 victory.
After McDowell and McIlroy's win - which had featured the first potential flashpoint on the second hole when Furyk queried whether McDowell should get a free drop from near a sprinkler - Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson restored the home side's side lead with a 3&2 win over Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari.
The European pair were one up after a birdie on the seventh but did not make another and succumbed tamely with bogeys on the 15th and 16th, the former coming when Westwood drove into water on the reachable par-four.
But the reliable pairing of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose ensured honours were even with a 2&1 victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker which should have been even more emphatic. Woods was all over the golf course - hitting his second spectator this week on the seventh - and Stricker dumped his tee shot to the second in the water, but they somehow extended the game to the 17th before Rose closed the door with a superb chip shot played with a fairway wood from just off the green.