Europe fall behind in Ryder Cup openers

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The Independent Online

The United States today drew first blood in the 37th Ryder Cup in a rollercoaster opening session at Valhalla.

Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan recovered from two down after two holes to beat Europe's Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey 3&2 in the second foursomes match out on the course.

It was Leonard's first victory in nine matches, coming on his first appearance since his part in the controversial victory at Brookline in 1999.

"It feels great," said Leonard. "I told Hunter I lost the first two holes for us on purpose to take the pressure off. We had a lot of fun out there."

It gave Paul Azinger's side the ideal start as they attempted to avoid a fourth straight defeat following two nine-point hammerings at Oakland Hills in 2004 and the K Club in 2006.

In the opening pairing Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim halved with Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson.

Harrington started with a six-foot birdie putt, but went into the hazard on the short third. Despite a poor drive from Karlsson, Europe went back in front on the sixth and they scrambled a half at the par-five next after Harrington had found their third hazard.

Harrington received treatment on his neck after Europe bogeyed the 180-yard eighth. Mickelson saved a half with a great bunker recovery on nine, but was put off by a camera clicking as he and rookie Kim fell behind for the third time at the next.

They were in deep trouble after their bogey on the 208-yard 11th and Harrington's brilliant approach to three feet won the 12th as well - a 40-foot Mickelson putt was only for par. But the Americans came back to level by taking the next three, the second of them after a magical Mickelson chip and the third when he made an 18-footer.

The 16th and 17th were halved - and so was the last when Kim made a six-footer after driving into sand and only just getting out of a greenside bunker. Karlsson also drove into sand and Harrington, having topped their next shot, just failed to follow his crucial 12-footer on the 16th with another to win.

In the final two matches Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell over-turned a three-hole deficit to beat Justin Rose and Ian Poulter 1 up, while Europe's top pairing of Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood were one down to Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk with one hole remaining.

Garcia has won all eight of his previous foursomes matches, and he and Westwood have been Europe's joint top points scorers in the last two victories.

More updates to follow...

Meanwhile the pairings for the afternoon fourballs have been named (USA names first):

- Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim v Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell

- Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis v Ian Poulter and Justin Rose

- Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan v Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez

- JB Holmes and Boo Weekley v Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen