Harrington takes one small step for Europe

His last win was not quite as long ago as the moon landing, but Padraig Harrington finally took one small step for Europe and one giant leap for himself at the Ryder Cup today.

Under intense pressure after being preferred to Paul Casey and Justin Rose and then playing poorly in his opening game at Celtic Manor, Harrington finally tasted victory again when he went back out.

Switching from Luke Donald to Ross Fisher as his partner, the Irishman beat Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson 3&2 - Harrington's first point since the 2004 singles in Detroit.

And how Colin Montgomerie's side needed it as the event tried to make up for lost time.

Down by a point after the four opening fourballs - delayed seven hours by rain on Friday - in the morning, they then lost the six foursomes by the same margin.

That did not end the day's play, though.

With the Americans 6-4 up two more foursomes and four fourballs began at 4.10pm - a crucial passage that was bound to spill into Sunday.

Europe's other winners in the second session were Donald and Ian Poulter, who beat Jeff Overton and Bubba Watson 2&1 after Donald's magnificent four iron to under three feet at the 17th.

"Fantastic," Poulter said of a shot which gave Donald his fifth win out of five in Ryder Cup foursomes.

The same word could not be used for Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell's finish against Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar, however.

In a rematch of a fourball half, the Ulster pair were one up with three to play. They bogeyed the 16th, McIlroy missed from under five feet at the next after Cink had holed from 25 and the 21-year-old then duffed his pitch to the par-five last into sand.

Harrington praised Montgomerie for putting him with Fisher.

"He made a great decision," he said. "He gave me the responsibility to look after Ross and it made me step up a bit.

"The atmosphere is electric. The supporters realise things are very tight - they all are, but this looks particularly tight."

Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, Europe's only winner in the first session, led Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler all the way from the second until the final green.

Furyk's pitch over the lake to three feet there enabled him and his partner to get out of the game with a half - and therefore not dwell quite so long over a rules blunder on the fourth.

Last weekend's £7million winner Furyk drove into mud and debutant Fowler was given a free drop, but he used a ball from his pocket rather than the one in play and that was loss of hole.

First pair to record two wins were Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker - and that, of course, follows their perfect four out of four at the Presidents Cup last year.

Woods is still miles away from his best form, but Stricker was a tower of strength as they beat Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez 4&3.

That was the first game for Hanson and Jimenez and the introduction of Italians Edoardo and Francesco Molinari - the first brothers to play since 1963 - saw them lose as well.

They took Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan to the last, but were beaten by two holes.

Earlier Westwood and Kaymer had led the opening game of the match from the second hole over 24 hours earlier and recorded a 3&2 victory over Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

McIlroy and McDowell then came two down after 11 to grab a half with Cink and Kuchar, McIlroy making a seven-footer at the 13th and a dramatic 30-foot putt for another birdie two on the 17th - accompanied by the biggest roar of the field so far.

Cink and McIlroy were both in the lake at the last - twice actually - and McDowell almost spun back in, but it was shared in par fives.

Donald and Harrington trailed throughout to Watson and Overton, Overton's putting being largely responsible for a 3&2 margin that made them the first rookie pair to win in the opening session since compatriots Andy Bean and Lee Elder in 1979.

That left Poulter and Fisher to try to square their match and the fourballs, but, despite Woods totally duffing his chip after going way left of the green on the 18th, Stricker was there again for him.

Montgomerie said: "We need a minimum 4-2 out of this session. We must go into the singles 8-8.

"All I can do is give them passion - motivation was losing two years ago - and want. They've got to want this and by God they do."

Europe showed that by drawing first blood in the first three games back onto the course - Harrington and Fisher against Furyk and Dustin Johnson, Hanson and Jimenez against Watson and Overton and then Donald and Westwood versus the unbeaten Stricker and Woods.

The fightback gathered momentum and once all six games had completed at least one hole Europe were up in five of them.

The only pair trailing were the Molinaris after Kuchar birdied the first.

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