GLENEAGLES (AFP) – Tom Watson’s United States finished strongly to grab an early 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 lead over Paul McGinley’s Europe as the Ryder Cup began in dramatic fashion Friday at Gleneagles.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson stormed away for Europe in the first of the fourballs matches out, defeating Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 5 and 4.
But the rookie US pairing of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed levelled it as they thumped European cheerleader Ian Poulter and Scottish debutant Stephen Gallacher by the same score.
Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker finished strongly to grab a halve against Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer.
And in the showcase matchup, Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson won at the last to sink world number one Rory McIlroy and number three Sergio Garcia.
It was an edgy start all around as pairing by pairing the players stepped onto a first tee surrounded by an ampitheatre of cheering or baying fans, depending on affinities. Simpson skied the opening tee shot of the match and landed just 190 yards down the fairway and left-hander Watson pushed his into deep rough. Rose and Stenson were little better.
Nerves were jangling all around in the early morning chill as Europe aimed for a sixth win in seven Ryder Cup matches.
The United States were looking to reassert their competitiveness in the biennial inter-continental showdown they once dominated outrageously.
When the dust had settled, it was Europe who drew first blood.
Martin Kaymer birdied the first to put him and Bjorn 1-up in the second game out and Bubba Watson three-putted to give Rose and Stenson the edge at the second.
The first US red came up on the board when a misfiring Poulter failed to sink a four-footer for a matching par at the first to hand the perfect start to Spieth and Reed, at 21 and 24 the youngest American pairing in Ryder Cup history.
McIlroy provided the day’s first fist-pump by sinking an 18-footer at the first to match Mickelson’s birdie as all four games were up and running.
And when playing partner Garcia holed a tremendous bunker shot for an unlikely birdie at the fourth, Europe firmly had the momentum, up in three and down in one.
But by the time the four games had reached the turn though, the Americans were back at parity.
Two teams were 4-up and coasting — Rose and Stenson for Europe and Spieth and Reed for the United States.
The two other ties were tight with Bjorn and Kaymer 1-up for Europe and Mickelson and Bradley 1-up for the Americans.
Rose and Stenson and Spieth and Reed were soon heading back to the clubhouse with victory smiles on their faces, leaving the two other matchups to battle it out.
Kaymer and Bjorn looked set to grab a second point for Europe at two up with three to play, but birdies from 35-year-old rookie Jimmy Walker at the 16th and 18th stunned the Europeans.