Original article appears on Pundit Arena.
Captain Paul McGinley will be sleeping a bit easier tonight after his Europe side turned a poor morning session around to take a 5-3 lead into Saturday.
“It seems everyone is nervous,” declared Ewen Murray after the match announcer mistook Webb Simpson for Bubba Watson on the opening tee this morning. Little did he or those watching know it was the prologue to what proceeded. There were plenty of twists, turns and even some shocks that make this competition so unique.
Simpson and Watson disappoint as Europe open account
The opening match set the tone. As the sun rose over the highlands, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson made their way to the rocking grandstand. Those who had turned up to the course early made their voices heard as the player’s walked to the first tee. Simpson, who was first to tee off, hit his shot not even 200 yards.
From there the Europeans pounced. On the 14th, Rose made a short putt and got the first point on the board and, more importantly, it was a blue point. The Americans were extremely poor and never put their mark on the game. For a team that performed so well in 2012, neither Simpson nor Watson managed a birdie in any of the 14 holes they played.
Rose and Stenson also played in the afternoon against Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson. This test was a bit tougher, however, Europe were firmly in control and after dropping to level terms on the 8th, Stenson sank his putt on the 15th and the pairing didn’t look back as they came out victorious with a 2&1 victory.
American rookies shine
The third match saw Scotland’s own Stephen Gallacher paired with cult hero Ian Poulter. The chant of “Walking on a Poulter Wonderland” rang around Bracken Brae as the Englishman warmed up; a smile beaming ear to ear as the chant went on.
However, that smile became a frustrating frown as his short attempt to halve the 1st slipped past the hole. American rookies, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth stole the spotlight, which was reserved for the hometown hero, Gallacher. Reed in particularly played spectacularly. His three birdies were superb, especially his long putt on the 9th. Spieth was not to be outdone. The 21-year-old also managed three birdies to help his side completed an impressive display.
Both were disappointed not to be out again in the afternoon. Captain Tom Watson said, “They were very upset at me for not playing them in the afternoon.” And so they should be they could have helped the American’s extend their lead in the afternoon session. Something that could cost America dear on Sunday.
McIlroy/Garcia save face in the afternoon as Mickelson/Bradley lose 100% record
The partnership of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia came out in the second session on Friday much like they did in the first. Both seemed to be still reeling from their close defeat to Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the morning with their driving off the tee leaving little to be desired.
It was a sense of déjà vu for the Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler except instead of escaping with half a point they will be wondering how they let the World number 1 and number 3 get back into the game. The American duo escaped their first session with half a point after Martin Kaymer and Thomas Bjorn led for much of the match.
McIlroy made a huge putt on the 17th to keep Europe in the match. A fantastic strike by Garcia on the 18th to the green all but wrapped up the point. Fowler missed the chance to halve the hole and in turn, win the match.
The American duo of Mickelson & Bradley won a back and fourth contest against Garcia and McIlroy in the morning session on the 18th after numerous misses on the green allowed Mickelson a two-foot putt for birdie and a precious point for Team USA.
However, many will question if the aforementioned pairing of Reed and Spieth should have gone out instead of the pairing of Mickelson and Bradley. Mickelson made numerous mistakes including missing short putts on the 4th and 5th to hand an early lead to the pairing of Graeme McDowell and the rookie, Victor Dubuisson. The Frenchman went into the match cool and confident and this showed on the course. He never showed any signs of nerves and undoubtedly aided his team’s victory.
Another man who shone on his Ryder Cup debut was the Welshman Jamie Donaldson. Teaming up with Lee Westwood, Donaldson confidence oozed as he stepped comfortably over his putt on the 7th and drained it to put Europe 1UP against the pairing of Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar. From there the pairing kept it together and Donaldson won the match after a putt that made it to the green and left the Americans with too much work to do.
Tomorrow is another day but Europe will be full of confidence Friday night and looking forward to getting back on the course Saturday morning.
Friday Morning Fourball Results
Match 1: Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson def. Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson 5&4
Match 2: Thomas Bjorn & Martin Kaymer A/S Rickie Fowler & Jimmy Walker
Match 3: Jordan Spieth & Patrick Reed def. Stephen Gallacher & Ian Poulter 5&4
Match 4: Keegan Bradley & Phil Mickelson def. Sergio Garcia & Rory McIlroy 1UP
Europe: 1 ½ USA: 2 ½
Friday Evening Foursomes Results
Match 1: Jamie Donaldson & Lee Westwood def. Jim Furyk & Matt Kuchar 2UP
Match 2: Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson def. Hunter Mahan & Zach Johnson 2&1
Match 3: Sergio Garcia & Rory McIlroy A/S Rickie Fowler & Jimmy Walker
Match 4: Victor Dubuisson & Graeme McDowell def. Keegan Bradley & Phil Mickelson 3&2
Europe: 5 USA: 3