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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Europe claim Ryder Cup advantage
By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at the K Club

Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood
Montgomerie and Westwood salvaged a crucial half
Europe hold the upper hand at 5-3 after an absorbing opening salvo in the 36th Ryder Cup at Ireland's K Club.

Ian Woosnam's side edged the morning fourballs 2-1 and won one, and halved three in the foursomes.

The wet, windy weather of the practice sessions was replaced by swathes of sunshine as about 45,000 fans were treated to a day of high drama.

Europe's Sergio Garcia won two out of two, while an out-of-sorts Tiger Woods won one and lost one with Jim Furyk.

European captain Ian Woosnam said: "To be leading by two points is marvellous and I'm just happy and proud for my guys. The atmosphere in the team room is fantastic.

"But I don't want to get in front of myself. We'll carry on as we are.

"Everybody is in a good mood but we know it can change in a minute. Anything can happen in matchplay."

Saturday features the same schedule of four fourballs in the morning followed by four foursomes (alternate shot) in the afternoon before all 12 players from each team compete head-to-head in Sunday's singles.

RYDER CUP BLOG
BBC Sport's Matt Slater on Darren Clarke's emotional win
The fourballs will feature one stand-out tie - Woods and Furyk going out third to face Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, who won an emotional point on the opening morning.

Europe's Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson are out first against Stewart Cink and JJ Henry

Phil Mickelson and Chris Di Marco take on Spaniards Garcia and Olazabal in the second game, while Swede Henrik Stenson and Ireland's Padraig Harrington play Scott Verplank and Zach Johnson in the final match of the morning.

As holders, Europe need 14 points to retain the Ryder Cup and 14 to win outright for the third straight time.

There were times during the foursomes when it looked like Europe could be much closer to their goal by Friday evening, with no American pairings leading between the 7th and 16th holes. But every match went to the final green.

Irish duo Harrington and Paul McGinley added a half against Chad Campbell and rookie Johnson in the first foursome to finish, after the Europeans led by two holes through 15.

Sergio Garcis and Luke Donald
Garcia and Donald downed Woods and Furyk
As the heavens opened, Furyk, the steady foil to Woods for almost 35 holes, put his approach into the water on the 18th, virtually handing a 2-up win to Garcia and England's Luke Donald, who were never behind.

Swedish rookie Stenson and England's David Howell, who both sat out the morning session, also halved with Cink and David Toms after a tense affair in which neither side led by more than one.

And in the final group, Europe's eight-time Cup veteran Montgomerie and England's Westwood snatched a half against world number two Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco.

Montgomerie's watery approach to 16 had handed his opponents the late initiative, but the Scot, who holed the winning putt two years ago, sank a six-footer for birdie on the last to open up a two-shot lead for Europe.

US captain Tom Lehman said: "There were a lot of tight matches and the difference was we didn't make a lot of putts.

"But we need to look at the positives, some of the guys played very well today. It's a pretty fine line between zero points, half a point or one point."

Furyk hit the first tee shot at 0800 BST in bright autumn sunshine, playing alongside world number one Woods against Europe's talismanic pairing of Montgomerie and local favourite Harrington.

Every vantage point was taken up as the expectant masses roared the home pair onto the tee, a noise matched only by the heartfelt cheers later on for the appearance of Northern Ireland's Clarke, who lost his wife Heather to cancer last month.

"I will never forget the reception I got at the first - I was nearly crying," said Clarke.

Montgomerie and Harrington found themselves three down after 12 as Furyk and Woods, ragged early on, fired four birdies in five holes from the eighth.

RYDER CUP BLOG
BBC Sport's Rob Hodgetts on an intriguing Ryder Cup start
The Europeans stuck to their task and reduced the gap to one down after 16 but lost by one hole on the 18th.

"Tiger didn't play his best, and Jim played well at times, but they played well together and that was a big point," said Lehman.

But soon after, Garcia and Olazabal recreated the inspirational Spanish pairing of Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros of years gone by and completed a comfortable 3&2 victory over Toms and rookie Brett Wetterich.

It was America's turn to produce a fightback in match three, as Cink and another debutant JJ Henry came back from three down after nine to halve against England's Casey and Swedish rookie Karlsson.

In the final match of the morning, Clarke and Westwood were taken down to the wire by Mickelson and DiMarco before winning one up.

The Europeans, winning their fifth Ryder Cup point together, were never headed, though there was only ever one hole in it. And as Clarke holed the decisive putt, his eyes again filled with tears and his lips quivered with emotion.



EUROPEAN RYDER CUP TEAM

 

US RYDER CUP TEAM

 

SEE ALSO
Ryder Cup scoreboard
21 Sep 06 |  Golf


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