U.S. takes early advantage at Ryder Cup
NEWPORT, Wales – If history is anything to go by, then the United States will win the 38th Ryder Cup.
Tradition dictates that the team that wins the opening session usually wins the match. Of the 28 opening sessions in which one team has led, 20 have gone on to win. The Americans will be hoping that proves the case here in Wales.
It took two days, torrential rain and a seven-hour hiatus to finish, but when the dust settled, the U.S. team emerged with the narrowest of leads. The visitors hold a 2 1/2–1 1/2 lead after the opening four ball session.
Every Ryder Cup is settled by the team that holes more putts. So far, the U.S. team has done that better than the Europeans. The visitors made 20 birdies compared to 16 by the Europeans.
Both captains came up with inspired pairings in the opening session. Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer proved just too steady for Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, pulling off a fairly easy 3-and-2 lead. However, the surprise package proved to be a couple of U.S. rookies in the shape of Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton.
They were seen as the weak links in Corey Pavin’s opening line-up but pulled off a comprehensive 3-and-2 victory over Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald. The U.S. duo made seven birdies in 16 holes, with Overton being responsible six of those.
“His putter was hot this morning, and I love him as a partner,” Watson said about Overton.
Stewart Cink proved the other hot putter on the American side. He also made six birdies in forming a strong partnership with Matt Kuchar. They probably deserved a win over Rory McIlroy and Graham McDowell but only came out with a half. They were 1 up with two to play but McIlroy scraped out a half by holing a 30-foot putt at the par-3 17th to draw even.
“I said to GMac going down 17, before we got to the green, let’s just try and make two here and try and win this match,” McIlroy said. “And I was able to do that. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods ground out a 3-and-2 victory over Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher, thanks largely to Stricker. He made five birdies compared to just two from Woods. The World No. 1 looked strangely out of sorts, hitting a number of shots into areas of Celtic Manor that are best not visited. For example, Stricker drove the par-4 15th green with a driver, while Woods missed the green by 50 yards with a 3-wood.
Needless to say, U.S. captain Corey Pavin will be hoping for better things from Woods. European skipper Colin Montgomerie, meanwhile, will be hoping for better things from more of his team, especially Harrington. The Irishman was the only player among the eight Europeans not to make a birdie in the opening session. Like Woods, the three-time major winner needs to raise his game.
Montgomerie arrived at Celtic Manor putting much stock in the opening session. The Scotsman wanted to win the four balls to build momentum. He hasn’t got it. Now he’s hoping his team proves stronger in foursomes than the Americans. Or else tradition might just scupper his chances of regaining the Ryder Cup.
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Results from the completion of four-balls Saturday at Celtic Manor:
Lee Westwood/Martin Kaymer (Europe) def. Phil Mickelson/Dustin Johnson (U.S.), 3 and 2
Stewart Cink/Matt Kuchar (U.S.) vs. Rory McIlroy/Graeme McDowell (Europe), halved
Steve Stricker/Tiger Woods (U.S.) def. Ian Poulter/Ross Fisher (Europe), 2 up
Bubba Watson/Jeff Overton (U.S.) def. Luke Donald/Padraig Harrington (Europe), 3 and 2