Europe still on course despite Westwood blow
Published 04/10/2010 | 13:58
Steve Stricker struck a blow for the United States by beating European talisman Lee Westwood as the 38th Ryder Cup began building towards its climax at Celtic Manor.
Stricker, in company with Tiger Woods, was on the receiving end of a 6&5 foursomes drubbing by Westwood and Luke Donald yesterday.
But he exacted revenge with a 2&1 victory, cutting Europe's overnight lead to 9 1/2 - 8 1/2 after Dustin Johnson had crushed Martin Kaymer 6&4 seconds earlier.
Westwood, who had risen to world number two before play started, was undone by Stricker's tenacity and accurate putting when it mattered.
USPGA champion Kaymer was no match for a fired-up Johnson, never making an impression on the contest.
The overall picture behind them though, still looked good for Europe in pursuit of the five points they needed to regain a trophy they lost in Louisville, Kentucky two years ago.
Ian Poulter beat Matt Kuchar 5&4, chipping in for an eagle on 12 en route, while Donald was two up on £7million FedEx Cup winner Jim Furyk after 14 and US Open champion Graeme McDowell was three up on a hapless Hunter Mahan through seven.
Ross Fisher and Miguel Angel Jimenez, meanwhile, held leads in their matches, with Francesco Molinari level with Woods after nine, and his brother Edoardo leading Rickie Fowler by one.
Despite Monday play in a Ryder Cup for the first time - a legacy of 13 hours being lost to rain on Friday and Sunday - huge crowds thronged the course in glorious autumnal sunshine.
Poulter dominated the match throughout, and a clenched-fist salute accompanied his ruthless triumph that took Europe just four short of the required winning total.
"It's massive," said Poulter. "Matt had been unbeaten in his matches so far, so I knew it was going to be a tough game.
"Every single putt we hole out there is like a tournament victory. It's simply incredible.
"I love team golf, I love match play and I love competing."
A pulsating contest between European Ryder Cup rookie Rory McIlroy and former Open champion Stewart Cink, meanwhile, moved down the 18th all square.
The lead had changed hands several times, and with Cink on the green in three, McIlroy needed to get close from a right-hand bunker.
But his shot went on to the fringe of the green, then rolled back into the bunker, handing Cink a chance for the match from 15 feet.
He sent it agonisingly wide from an American perspective, leaving McIlroy with a five-footer to tie the match, and he kept his nerve as Europe led 11-9 with four games completed.
McIlroy, who once described the Ryder Cup as an exhibition match, offered a totally different view after completing his debut experience.
"This is the best event in golf by far," he said.
"I thought we both played very well, and a half was probably what we both deserved."
Donald then opened up a three-point advantage for Europe at 12-9. Furyk found a bunker on 18, leaving Donald with two putts to win, and he closed out the victory by one hole.
"I knew Jim would be tough, and he put some pressure on me at the end. I was glad to get a point," said Donald.
"The match is tight, but we have still got some good leads in matches behind."