Tuesday 12 December 2017

Westwood gets Ryder singles under way

Lee Westwood lines up a putt on the first green. Photo: PA
Lee Westwood lines up a putt on the first green. Photo: PA

Lee Westwood hit Europe's first Monday morning shot in Ryder Cup history at Celtic Manor today - and he had immediate cause for celebration.

Westwood, Europe's talisman against the United States, was first out in the delayed 12-match singles schedule following a competition scarred by heavy rain and 13 hours of delays.

Europe needed a total of five points to regain the trophy lost in Louisville, Kentucky two years ago, holding a 9 1/2-6 1/2 lead overnight after dropping just half a point in six matches yesterday.

And Westwood, even before he teed off against Steve Stricker, had climbed to world number two for the first time in his career and will end Tiger Woods' five-year reign at the top if he finishes first or second at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland next weekend.

Westwood, who arrived on the first tee to chants of "there's only one Lee Westwood" from a packed grandstand, drove to just off a mist-shrouded fairway before halving the hole in four after Stricker got down in two from a green-side bunker.

Back on the tee, 21-year-old Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy prepared to start his match against former Open champion Stewart Cink, but the mist was thickening.

Westwood and Stricker were briefly held on the second tee due to the mist, although chief referee John Paramor said he did not anticipate any major weather issues.

"The fog has come, but it is not quite bad enough to call it off. There is no official stoppage," he said.

Ryder Cup rookie McIlroy drew first blood for Europe by holing a 12-foot putt on the first to go one up, while Westwood and Stricker went through two all square as Luke Donald and Jim Furyk set off down the first.

Furyk, £7m winner of the FedEx Cup in Atlanta eight days ago when Donald was second, holed out for a half, but Westwood went one down after bogeying the par-three third following a scuffed second shot.

McIlroy was on an immediate roll though, punishing a subdued Cink by going two up after two.

With three matches under way, Europe were up in one, down in one and level in the other.

Cink claimed a shot back by holing from seven feet on the third, but Westwood found his touch on the fourth green and went all square with Stricker.

McIlroy's fellow rookie, US PGA champion Martin Kaymer, suffered a torrid time on the first, going one down to Dustin Johnson after finding a bunker near the green and taking two attempts to get out of it.

As the fifth match - Ian Poulter against Matt Kuchar - began, Europe were up in one, down in one and all square in two.

But that situation looked likely to improve when Furyk sent his tee shot on the 189-yard third into the water.

Press Association

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