First blood to US at Medinah but Europe hit back as McIlroy and McDowell hold nerve
17:50 GMT, 28 September 2012
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Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell breathed a huge sigh of relief after helping Europe emerge from the opening session of the Ryder Cup tied at 2-2 with the United States.
The Northern Irish pair were sent out first by captain Jose Maria Olazabal and had talked confidently about getting European blue on the board early, but almost squandered a three-hole lead with six to play against Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker.
With Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia already suffering their first ever foursomes defeat in the event in match two, the top match took on further significance and it was Snedeker who cracked under the pressure on the last.
Final green: Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate after beating Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker
Rory's roar: McIlroy reacts after he and McDowell won the fourth hole of their opening match at Medinah
Snedeker, who on Sunday held his nerve to win the FedEx Cup and more than $11million, carved his tee shot way off line into a hospitality area to leave Furyk only able to pitch through the trees onto the fairway.
That eventually led to a bogey five but McIlroy was fortunate to see his drive clip some trees and bounce back to the edge of the fairway, from where McDowell dragged his approach into a greenside bunker.
First blood: Keegan Bradley (right) celebrates with Phil Mickelson after the pair beat Donald and Garcia
Upset: Luke Donald of England (left) and Sergio Garcia of Spain (right) lost their unbeaten foursomes record
World No 1 McIlroy hit a good recovery shot to five feet and McDowell held his nerve to seal the win.
'That match to me just personifies the Ryder Cup,' the former US Open champion said. 'Myself and Rory played some great golf to go three up, and then you're playing against two very gutsy players who clawed their way back to all square coming down the last two holes.
'I'm not sure if you'll play two tougher holes. The finish to this golf course is very strong and we had stacked our team with this finish in mind. I wanted Rory hitting the tee shots on 16 and 18 and our strategy paid off.
'It's a very important session for Team Europe this morning and we wanted to personally go out and try to get some blue on the board. We did that and we were lucky to get the point in the end.'
Wayward: Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were beaten by Justin Rose and Ian Poulter in the foursomes
Talisman: Poulter celerates after holing his bunker shot on the 11th hole during the foursomes
Donald and Garcia had won all four of their foursomes outings together, winning twice in the routs at Oakland Hills in 2004 and the K Club in 2006, while Garcia was also unbeaten in nine foursomes appearances overall and Donald had won six out of six.
But they ran into an inspired rookie in Keegan Bradley and four-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who won four holes in a row from the 12th to put the first point on the board with a 4&3 victory.
Blow: Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari were beaten by Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner
Dynamic duo: Dufner and Zach Johnson celebrate a birdie putt on the tenth green
After McDowell and McIlroy's win – which had featured the first potential flashpoint on the second hole when Furyk queried whether McDowell should get a free drop from near a sprinkler – Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson restored the home side's side lead with a 3&2 win over Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari.
The European pair were one up after a birdie on the seventh but did not make another and succumbed tamely with bogeys on the 15th and 16th, the former coming when Westwood drove into water on the reachable par-four.
Sandman: McIlroy plays from a bunker during Friday morning's Ryder Cup foursomes
Tee time: Mickelson hits his opening shot on the fourth hole during his successful foursomes match
But the reliable pairing of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose ensured honours were even with a 2&1 victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker which should have been even more emphatic.
Woods was all over the golf course – hitting his second spectator this week on the seventh – and Stricker dumped his tee shot to the second in the water, but they somehow extended the game to the 17th before Rose closed the door with a superb chip shot played with a fairway wood from just off the green.
Cheerleader: Former Chicago Bulls basketball player Michael Jordan is now part of the American backroom team
Flying the flag: American fans provided a raucous atmosphere for the opening stages of the Cup
Outnumbered: Europe fans made their presence felt despite being heavily in the minority