Ryder Cup 2014 day one report: Europe in control after late magic by Rory McIlroy

Rose and Stenson win twice before Westwood and Donaldson add gloss

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The Independent Online

Just another dull day at the Ryder Cup. We thought Rory McIlroy had wrung the last drop of drama from his season with two majors in the space of three weeks. And then he rolls one in from 40 feet on the penultimate hole to deepen the aura building around him.

Ryder Cup day one as it happened

Two down with two to play, McIlroy and Sergio Garcia were facing cremation had that putt not dropped, having already been beaten earlier in the day. There was still magic to conjure at the last.

Over to you, Sergio. The Spaniard responded with the five-wood of his career out of the cabbage to set up the birdie that conjured an unlikely half against Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler. An advantage that might have stood at one point overnight became two with Europe leading 5-3.

Gleneagles was still jumping when Graeme McDowell rolled in a 20-footer at the 16th to inflict, with Victor Dubuisson, a first Ryder Cup defeat on Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, 3&2. What a close to proceedings and some transformation after a fraught morning for Europe.

Special mention must go to Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson, who contributed a chunk of yeoman grunt to redress the balance after the missed opportunity of the early fourballs, which Europe contrived to lose 2.5 to 1.5. When it comes to rolling up the sleeves and bending the back, where better to recruit than from Worksop and Pontypridd?

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Fowler chips from the bunker on the 16th hole during the first session

Behind early in the first match of the afternoon, they levelled at the sixth and were never in arrears again against Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar.

Martin Kaymer and Thomas Bjorn were never behind at all in the morning foursomes but could not maintain hegemony despite outplaying Walker and Fowler for much of that contest.

 

The loss of a half a point at the death in the second match of the day was received like a poke in the eye. Coupled with the defeat at the final hole of Europe’s leading men McIlroy and Garcia by Mickelson and Bradley, it seemed the air was starting to seep from the blue balloons floating around Gleneagles.

Then in came Westwood and Donaldson. Steady as you go and hold your nerve was the motto. A Donaldson bogey at the third was not allowed to disturb their equilibrium. Chin up, son, keep plugging away.

Donaldson speared a marvellous tee shot at the par-3 sixth, inviting his partner to drill Europe back onto level terms. A par was enough to take the next and from there it was classic foursome play, keeping the mistakes to a minimum and taking any chance created.  

Furyk must be sick of the sight of Westwood. Both have played the same eight Ryder Cups, with the American on the negative end of their shared 6-2 statistic. His deft chip at the last was typical of his dustpan-and-brush tidiness but it was in vain after Kuchar fluffed his wedge into the green.

Westwood whacked a three-wood into the run-off to the left of the green, leaving Donaldson a straightforward chip to ensure the point that would bring Europe level on two and a half points apiece. Fancy a pint, son? You bet.

Behind them, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson reprised their stellar work of the morning, adding the scalps of Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson to those of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson to clear the path for the day’s heroic finale. 

It was perhaps in keeping with the trend of the morning that Europe should fail to make the most of the auspicious setting first up.

Ivor Robson has been calling golfers to the first tee for fully 40 years so he was maybe due a clanger. And it was a cracker, introducing Simpson as Watson. Simpson responded by popping his drive skyward, barely reaching the fairway. It would be that kind of day for the American pairing.

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Rory McIlroyproduced some late magic to keep Europe in the lead

In truth, the grand depart did not quite match the raucous launch of Medinah or the enthusiasms of Celtic Manor. Watson gave it the full Bubba, whipping the crowd into a quasi-frenzy but the rest teed off in respectful silence.

Stenson and Rose were ahead at the second and motored on from there. A birdie at the next from Rose took them two clear. They were three up at the turn but the lead might have been five. Watson and Simpson did well to take it as far as the 14th, where it ended in Europe’s favour 5&4.

In the second group Kaymer and Bjorn were even more impressive, racing into a three-hole lead after four against Fowler and Walker.

Kaymer had a birdie putt at the next to put even more pressure on the Americans. He missed, Fowler holed to give them a foothold in the match. When Walker holed out from the bunker for eagle at nine, the Americans were only one back.

Kaymer had the look of a man who had left his wallet on the train, and never quite got over his disappointment. Though Bjorn birdied the 15th to take Europe two clear with three to play, Walker was not done. He chipped in at 16 and birdied the last for a half. A classic Ryder Cup steal.

Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher were well and truly Poultered.

Gallacher was the only European not to find the first fairway and thereafter never settled. Poulter was picked on memory and largely forgot his lines. He found a greenside trap at the first to make it an easy start for Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

A birdie at the second to take the Americans two up was all Reed’s own work. Europe nicked one back with a par, and took the 12th the same way.

In between, the Americans played turbo golf, slamming five birdies in six holes to go six clear. By the 14th it was over, 5&4, and the United States had their first point.

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Day One Scores

Morning fourballs

Rose & Stenson beat Watson & Simpson 5&4

Fowler & Walker halved with Bjorn & Kaymer

Spieth & Reed beat Gallacher & Poulter 5&4

Bradley & Mickelson beat Garcia & McIlroy 1up

Afternoon foursomes

Donaldson & Westwood beat Furyk & Kuchar 2up

Rose & Stenson beat  Mahan & Johnson 2&1

McIlroy & Garcia halved with Walker & Fowler

Dubuisson & McDowell beat Mickelson & Bradley 3&2

Overall: Europe 5 US 3

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