Newspaper article International New York Times

Europe Claws Back for Early Lead at Ryder Cup

Newspaper article International New York Times

Europe Claws Back for Early Lead at Ryder Cup

Article excerpt

The Americans lost three of four matches in the afternoon and trailed 5-3 at the end of the first day.

Long on energy and short on battle scars, is there a better combination for an afternoon Ryder Cup foursomes match on a hilly course?

Tom Watson, the United States captain, thought so. He sat the undefeated pairing of first-timers Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed in favor of the unbeaten team of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. The move produced results only second-guessers and Europeans could love.

Spieth and Reed combined in the Friday morning four-ball session to hand the European talisman Ian Poulter his first Ryder Cup defeat in his past eight matches. Their 5&4 victory over Poulter and his partner, Scotland's native son Stephen Gallacher, earned them a spot on the sidelines for the afternoon alternate-shot matches.

Mickelson, making his 10th start in the biennial event, teamed with Bradley for a 1-up victory in the morning against Rory McIlroy, the world No. 1, and the third-ranked Sergio Garcia. It improved the pair's record to 4-0 since they were thrown together at Medinah in 2012. Roughly 30 minutes later, Mickelson and Bradley teed off against a rested pairing of Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell and lost 3&2 in a match they never led. The 44-year-old Mickelson would never use his health as an excuse, but he has psoriatic arthritis, a disease that is exacerbated in cool, autumnal weather, which perfectly describes Friday's conditions.

The first defeat experienced by Bradley and Mickelson was the third of the afternoon for the Americans, who trailed 5-3 at the end of the day. The United States took a 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 lead in the morning after getting an unlikely halve from Rickie Fowler and the Ryder Cup rookie Jimmy Walker. The pair never led in its match against Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer and were 3-down after four holes.

Walker, in his Ryder Cup debut, had two hole-outs, the first from a bunker on the ninth, to key the comeback. He squared the match with an eight-foot birdie at 18.

The Europeans were led by Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, who cruised to a 5&4 victory over Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, neither of whom made a birdie.

The biggest surprise of the morning was that Watson chose not to send Spieth and Reed back out in the afternoon. "I felt like in alternate shot, him and I would have been great to go back out and take the momentum of what we had just done," Reed said. "But at the end of the day, Captain Watson, he picks the pairings for a reason."

The beat down by Spieth and Reed, neither of whom was alive when the 65-year-old Watson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988, was not as big an upset as it seemed.

Poulter has labored this calendar year, with five missed cuts in 19 starts around the globe. With one top-5 finish in 2014, at the China Open, Poulter came here hoping to flip a switch. …

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