Tag Archives: mcdowell

Graeme McDowell leads in California going into the final round

McDowell on course to end year on high as he takes two shot lead into final round in California

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UPDATED:

09:02 GMT, 2 December 2012

Graeme McDowell remains on course for victory at the World Golf Challenge after a solid third round at Thousand Oaks.

The Northern Irishman soared to the top of the leaderboard yesterday with a six-under 66 and heads into the final day two clear at the top after following up with a 68.

It was a bogey-free round from the European Ryder Cup star and also included four birdies as he moved to 13 under for the tournament.

Leading the pack: Graeme McDowell leads in California

Leading the pack: Graeme McDowell leads in California

Keegan Bradley, in the news recently for his vocal defence of the endangered belly-putting technique, sits second on 11 under after signing for a 67 – the joint best round of the day alongside Bubba Watson.

He made six birdies but dropped a shot at the par-four ninth.

In the hole: McDowell makes a putt on the 15th

In the hole: McDowell makes a putt on the 15th

Competition host Tiger Woods is tied for third with Bo Van Pelt five shots off the lead.
England's Ian Poulter failed to crack 70 for the third time in a row and is way off the pace at even par.

Graeme McDowell pulls three strokes clear in World Golf Challenge in California

McDowell pulls three strokes clear after superb round in California

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UPDATED:

00:38 GMT, 1 December 2012

Graeme McDowell hit the round of the day to go three shots clear at the World Golf Challenge in California.

The Northern Irishman, who was in a chasing pack of three after a first-round 69, signed for a six-under 66 today to move to nine under overall.

He kicked off with three successive birdies and added four more in the back nine to weigh against a solitary dropped shot at the par-four seventh.

Round of the day: Graeme McDowell pulled three shots clear

Round of the day: Graeme McDowell pulled three shots clear

American trio Bo Van Pelt, Jim Furyk and Keegan Bradley are tied for second on six under, with the latter making a bogey-free round including three birdies.

Host Tiger Woods lies one stroke further back after signing for a 69 – dropping shots at eight and 15 either side of four birdies in five holes.

Australia's Jason Day is bottom of the 18-man field on two over through 36 holes, with the third and final non-American, England's Ian Poulter, also struggling on one above par.

Overnight leader Nick Watney slipped back to five shots off the lead after following his day-one score of 67 with a 73.

When it rains... McDowell sought cover from the rain

When it rains… McDowell sought cover from the rain

Tied: Bo Van Pelt is in joint second place

Tied: Bo Van Pelt is in joint second place

Graeme McDowell gets engaged to Kristin Stape

G-Mac finds perfect playing partner as Ryder Cup star gets engaged to Kristin Stape

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UPDATED:

09:31 GMT, 22 November 2012

Old romantic Graeme McDowell hit the heights in Dubai as he proposed to his girlfriend on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab.

McDowell, taking part in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship this week, went down on one knee to pop the question to long-time partner Kristin Stape.

The Northern Irishman – solid as a rock when closing out a US Open or the final match of a Ryder Cup, admitted to a bit of a wobble 700ft above the UAE.

Two for tee: Graeme McDowell and Kristin Stape will get married in 2013

Two for tee: Graeme McDowell and Kristin Stape will get married in 2013

He said: 'She had no idea what was going on and was shocked and stunned. I even found myself getting a little bit emotional. It was a very special location, looking out over Dubai.'

McDowell met American Stape when he contacted her interior designer business to decorate his Orlando home and the couple are set to get married at the end of 2013.

World No 1 Rory McIlroy, McDowell's friend and fellow countryman, will also be celebrating this week as he is officially crowned the winner of the Race to Dubai.

McIlroy tweeted: 'Congrats to my good friend @Graeme_McDowell on his engagement to the lovely @kristinstape! Delighted.'

Colin Montgomerie set to host Golf Live"s tournament at Celtic Manor

Montgomerie set to return to scene of 2010 Ryder Cup triumph by heading celeb tournament at Celtic Manor

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UPDATED:

16:09 GMT, 8 November 2012

Colin Montgomerie will return to the scene of his Ryder Cup triumph to host an A-list celebrity tournament next year.

The Scot captained the European Ryder Cup team as they defeated the USA at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales.

Now the 49-year-old is heading a list of pro golfers and celebrities to raise money for charity at the Manor.

In the name of fun: The likes of Chris Evans (pictured) and Catherine Zeta-Jones have turned out in years gone by

In the name of fun: The likes of Chris Evans (pictured) and Catherine Zeta-Jones have turned out in years gone by

Celtic Manor also hosted the All Star Cup in 2005 and 2006 which was presented by Ant and Dec, and Montgomerie is set to oversee four teams of celebrities at the latest Golf Live event in May 10-12 2013.

Montgomerie said: 'Golf Live has created a real buzz since it started and I’m really excited at the prospect of the new celebrity competition.

'There is no other event like it in golf, and for golfers to be given the chance to come along and see the interaction between the pros, the general public and now the celebrities is fantastic.

'Golf Live truly offers something for everybody and the fact that it is in aid of my mother’s foundation and is being staged next year at Celtic Manor, a venue very close to my heart after my captaincy of Europe’s Ryder Cup win there two years ago, makes it extra special for me.'

In previous years, the likes of Chris Evans, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sir Steve Redgrave, actors Damian Lewis and James Nesbitt, model Jodie Kidd and rock stars Alice Cooper and Meatloaf have all turned out for the cause.

Remember this: Colin Montgomerie (left) captained Europe to Ryder Cup victory in 2010 at Celtic Manor

Remember this: Colin Montgomerie (left) captained Europe to Ryder Cup victory in 2010 at Celtic Manor

Get in! Graeme McDowell putted home for Europe at Celtic Manor

Get in! Graeme McDowell putted home for Europe at Celtic Manor

Peter Hanson beats Rory McIlroy to win BMW Masters

McIlroy fails to catch Hanson as Swede edges out Ryder Cup team-mate in Shanghai

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UPDATED:

11:51 GMT, 28 October 2012

Just a month after failing to win a point at the Ryder Cup – and being left on the sidelines for three of the five sessions – Peter Hanson had the sweetest win of his career on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Swede just held off world No 1 Rory McIlroy to take the BMW Masters title in Shanghai against a field that also included nine more of his European team-mates from Medinah.

With Luke Donald coming third and Ian Poulter fourth it was a week dominated by members of Jose Maria Olazabal's side, but Hanson was the one to come out on top.

Peter Hanson

Peter Hanson

Main man: Peter Hanson beat Rory McIlroy by one shot to win the BMW Masters in Shanghai

BMW Masters in Shanghai

Click here for final standings

/10/28/article-2224291-15B99DBB000005DC-683_634x443.jpg” width=”634″ height=”443″ alt=”Better luck next time: Hanson (right) with McIlroy after the Swede won in Shanghai” class=”blkBorder” />

Better luck next time: Hanson (right) with McIlroy after the Swede won in Shanghai

Race to Dubai standings

1 Rory McIlroy 2,766,222
2 Peter Hanson 2,106,534
3 Justin Rose 2,044,670
4 Branden Grace 1,669,984
5 Louis Oosthuizen 1,532,375
6 Francesco Molinari 1,474,414
7 Graeme McDowell 1,452,423
8 Luke Donald 1,445,831
9 Ernie Els 1,426,399
10 Paul Lawrie 1,410,431

World No 25 Hanson's par save from 15 feet preserved the gap, but there was still a possibility of a play-off when Hanson's approach to the 471-yard last came down in rough above a bunker.

He thought he might be entitled to a free drop because of a plugged lie, but was refused it and after doing well to chip to 10 feet he breathed a sigh of relief when McIlroy's 15-foot birdie attempt just missed.

That left Hanson with two putts for his sixth European Tour win – the last came with a closing eagle in Holland last month – and he took them.

'Rory made a tremendous effort and put quite a bit of pressure on me – his second to the 15th was true class,' Hanson added.

'He gave me a bit of a cushion early on (McIlroy missed two four-foot par putts) and I was maybe a little too defensive at the end, but it all worked out.

'My short game used to be my weak part, but I've been working on it and my putting has really improved.'

Marching on: Hanson held his nerve on the final day to maintain his lead in Shanghai

Marching on: Hanson held his nerve on the final day to maintain his lead in Shanghai

In Chicago Hanson was angry to be left out all day Saturday and he said the following week that he might not be sending captain Olazabal 'that many Christmas cards'.

But the pair chatted last week and are back on good terms.

'I was a bit disappointed,' Hanson said, 'but there's no feeling of revenge or wanting to show everyone now. It's a team effort and we ended up winning it.'

McIlroy is staying in China, but only for a one-day head-to-head against Tiger Woods – joint fourth in Malaysia today after a closing 63.

The rest of the week is being spent with his tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in Bulgaria – she is playing a tournament there – but he returns to Asia for the Singapore Open and his defence of the Hong Kong Open.

Those events will give the 23-year-old the opportunity to clinch the money list double before the race-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai on November 22-25.

Not his day: McIlroy reacts after missing a put as he has to settle for second place

Not his day: McIlroy reacts after missing a put as he has to settle for second place

'I'm happy with how I played, but a little disappointed,' McIlroy said. 'I missed a few opportunities on the front nine and it was too little, too late.

'I wanted to make him work for it and it would have been nice to hole the putt on the last, but it wasn't to be and Peter deserved it.'

A closing birdie by Donald for a 66 enabled him to deny Poulter, who had a 65, a share of third place, while there were no fewer than nine of the Ryder Cup side in the top 15.

Justin Rose, now down to third on the 'Race to Dubai', tied for sixth, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell were joint 11th and Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts finished in joint 14th.

'It just shows we had a strong team,' Donald said.

Poulter added: “The board is full of Ryder Cup players, which you would expect.

'The guys are still on a high – and rightly so.'

Pardaig Harrington to play in Grand Slam of Golf as Ernie Els pulls out with ankle injury

Bermuda bonanza for Harrington as Els pulls out of Grand Slam of Golf

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UPDATED:

10:44 GMT, 21 October 2012

Bonanza: Harrington

Bonanza: Harrington

Ireland's Padraig Harrington has suddenly found himself called into the four-man PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Port Royal in Bermuda on Tuesday and Wednesday, and even if he finishes last he will earn 125,000.

Harrington replaces Open champion Ernie Els, who has pulled out with a left ankle injury, and in an event meant to bring together the season's four major winners is up against Masters champion Bubba Watson, US Open winner Webb Simpson and last year's USPGA champion Keegan Bradley – himself a replacement for Rory McIlroy.

Northern Ireland's world No 1 qualified with his USPGA victory in August, but is defending the BMW Masters title in Shanghai this week, while second and third alternates Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods are also honouring commitments to play in Asia.

Harrington said: 'While my entry is under unique circumstances, I am excited to compete in the event again. I came close the last two times I was there, losing in play-offs to Angel Cabrera in 2007 and Jim Furyk in 2008, so maybe the third time will be a charm.'

Els, winner in 1997 and 2010, stated: 'I am bitterly disappointed. It is a great reward for winning a major and something I have enjoyed in the past and was looking forward to again.

Ankle injury: Els has had to pull out of the event in Bermuda

Ankle injury: Els has had to pull out of the event in Bermuda

'Unfortunately I sprained my left ankle a few days ago and while it isn't too serious and should recover relatively quickly, I have been advised not to try and play on it.'

The winner receives 375,000 and the runner-up 187,500.

Golfers Overpaid? Most earnings aren"t on a par with Justin Rose"s – Derek Lawrenson

Overpaid Most earnings aren't on a par with Rose's fortune

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 15 October 2012

Are professional golfers wildly overpaid As we enter the silly season of lavish appearance fees and guaranteed prize money, a period that has seen Justin Rose make 2million already, it would be easy to succumb to the idea.

But judging any profession by the lucky few who make it to the summit is always a skewed notion.

For a better perspective, look at the man currently holding down 115th place in the Race to Dubai. In other words, the final spot to ensure playing privileges for next year.

Sealed with a kiss: Justin Rose won a small fortune in Turkey last week

Sealed with a kiss: Justin Rose won a small fortune in Turkey last week

Jamie Elson was a direct contemporary of some of the high rollers in the UK game. He played in the same winning Walker Cup team as Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald and turned pro with the same dreams. Five years later, he was selling coffee machines and distributing leaflets in supermarkets.

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Now he is back on the ladder, plying his trade on the second best tour in world golf. Over the past three years he has made around 430,000, which sounds great until you strip out 100,000 for hotels, caddie fees and the like.

Still, excellent money in the real world, of course, and certainly a better rate than selling coffee machines. But not wildly overpaid.

So that’s what you earn if you are the 115th best player in Europe.

Below Elson are all the wannabes on the Challenge Tour who are good enough to routinely shoot scores in the 60s and yet struggle to pay the mortgage. And below them are thousands more playing for their own money each week in small-scale pro events knowing they need to finish in the top six or so to make any dosh at all.

Yes, make it into the world’s top 50 and you can have a holiday home in an exotic location and your pick of the best luxury motors.

Make it into the top 10 and you are earning absolute fortunes.

But there are a lot of really good pro golfers out there who are not overpaid, never mind wildly so.

Christian facing the cut

Is our favourite former knife salesman about to suffer the cruellest cut of all This time last year we were bringing to your attention the heartwarming story of Englishman Gary Christian, who once did that job — among others — to make ends meet and who had battled on to make it to the most glamorous circuit in world golf for the first time at the age of 40.

So, how has he fared in his rookie year on the US Tour Well, there have certainly been plenty of highlights, as anyone following his entertaining Twitter account can testify.

There has been a top-10 finish and he played so well in the first two rounds of the opening FedEx Cup event he got to partner Tiger Woods.

But, the bottom line is that a missed halfway cut last week has left Christian in 127th place in the money list, with two events remaining — and only the top 125 keep their cards for next year.

What is known, in sporting parlance, as squeaky-bum time.

Cambo back in the swing of things

I must admit, there have been times over the past nine years when I’ve bumped into Michael Campbell in clubhouses, hotel elevators and the like, and really not known what to say.

Befitting his status as one of the game’s gentlemen, he’d always warmly say hello. But, after the opening pleasantries, how do you have a conversation with a man who went from beating Tiger Woods to win the 2005 US Open to falling so far he was outside the world’s top 1,300 There are only so many polite variations on ‘Why bother carrying on’ aren’t there

Mr Nice Guy: Michael Campbell had a welcome return to form at Vilamoura

Mr Nice Guy: Michael Campbell had a welcome return to form at Vilamoura

Well, at the age of 43, the man known far and wide as Cambo has come up with his own response, and what a gratifying one it is, too. At the Portugal Masters on Sunday, the Kiwi confirmed the small recovery steps he has been taking by finishing third for his first podium placing for four long years. Moreover, he put together four scores in the 60s for the first time since 2003.

This morning, he must feel almost as elated as he did on that unforgettable day seven years ago, when parliament back home in New Zealand suspended business so they could watch one of their own win America’s national title.

Quote of the week

‘For years I was known as the fella who won the Irish Open as an amateur. Now I have won this prestigious title, I don’t quite know what to say.’

Congratulations to Shane Lowry, winner of the Portugal Masters on Sunday. Let’s hope this victory, the first on tour by a player from the Republic of Ireland since the 25-year-old’s own success at Baltray three years ago, heralds the start of a revival for golfers from the southern branch.

A long time coming: Ireland's Shane Lowry won the Portugal Masters

A long time coming: Ireland's Shane Lowry won the Portugal Masters

Ryder Cup 2012: Ian Poulter shows bulldog spirit: But Europe face huge task to defeat USA

Pumped-up Poulter shows bulldog spirit… but Europe face huge task to defeat USA

By
Malcolm Folley

PUBLISHED:

00:20 GMT, 30 September 2012

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UPDATED:

00:39 GMT, 30 September 2012

Ian Poulter, a fist-pumping, snarling, bulldog of a golfer, offered the European team outside hope of defending the Ryder Cup here.

Poulter holed a 12-foot putt on the 18th green to defeat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson with his fifth consecutive birdie. On the side of the green, the European team celebrated as one while Rory McIlroy embraced his playing partner.

It was a one-man show of defiance from Poulter. ‘It’s going to be bloody hard tomorrow, but we’ve got to take it to them,’ he said.

Fist of fury: Ian Poulter celebrates after keeping his nerve to win a point for Europe in the final match

Fist of fury: Ian Poulter celebrates
after keeping his nerve to win a point for Europe in the final match

Poulter and McIlroy’s victory came
minutes after Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia had defeated Tiger Woods and
Steve Stricker by one hole as Europe at least reminded the Americans
they remain in a fight. As a result of the late European heroics, the
Americans will begin the final day 10-6 ahead.

‘Poulter was awesome,’ said McIlroy. ‘When he gets that look in his eye he can do anything.’

At last the American crowd was made
to feel nervous; at last this Ryder Cup had become a contest rather than
a ceremonial procession for those representing Uncle Sam. Finally, the
tension was palpable.

Grim viewing: Jose Maria Olazabal cannot bear to watch

Grim viewing: Jose Maria Olazabal cannot bear to watch

Jose Maria Olazabal has been a
low-profile captain, at times appearing invisible. Yet, behind closed
doors after a ragged, unprofitable first day for the stars of the
European game, he voiced his displeasure in a speech of controlled
anger.

‘We got the hair dryer treatment,’
said Graeme McDowell. And McIlroy, a fervent Manchester United fan,
added: ‘It was a roasting, real Sir Alex Ferguson stuff.’

Olazabal failed to generate the
response he had hoped for until the end of a momentous day. Yet Davis
Love III’s men need just 4 more points to reclaim the trophy.

Olazabal’s captaincy of the European
team is unlikely to be regaled in tales of wonder. For when the story of
the 39th Ryder Cup is retold, we will think of Americans Keegan
Bradley, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson and the ageless Phil
Mickelson burying the reputations of the finest golfers from the other
side of the Atlantic beneath the first fall of leaves at the Medinah
Country Club.

We will struggle to understand how
Olazabal had been unable to galvanise such renowned players as McIlroy,
Donald, Lee Westwood, McDowell, Garcia and Justin Rose into offering
greater resistance.

‘It’s a crisis now,’ said Colin
Montgomerie, who proved a shrewd captain of Europe at Celtic Manor two
years ago. ‘Our players haven’t performed to their ability and that’s
why the gap has widened all the time.’

Defining moment: Dustin Johnson (centre) celebrates sinking a birdie putt to win the 17th hole

Defining moment: Dustin Johnson (centre) celebrates sinking a birdie putt to win the 17th hole

In Wales, Monty had been a general
buzzing around the course from match to match, like Seve Ballesteros had
done so memorably at Valderrama in 1997.

Once Olazabal had worked in magical
tandem with his late friend in the Ryder Cup, yet his desire to emulate
Ballesteros’s triumph as captain was fading faster than the sun setting
over Chicago.

‘The difference has been mainly
around the greens,’ said Olazabal. ‘Our boys are not making the putts.
And, it’s true, some of them haven’t performed to their expectations.’

Fighting against the tide: Sergio Garcia (right) congratulates Luke Donald after winning the eighth hole

Fighting against the tide: Sergio Garcia (right) congratulates Luke Donald after winning the eighth hole

Only an exceptional performance from
every man in the European team in the 12 single matches can deny the
Americans from reclaiming Sam Ryder’s old trophy. That seems unlikely.
On what we know, all that is to be determined is the scale of the
American victory.

Inside the European team there is an
air of despondency that is too late to be dispersed. Each putt that
failed to go in — and Nicolas Colsaearts was a victim of some cruel
near-misses — brought closer the reality of defeat.

Donald tried to make sense of the
manner in which Bradley has placed the Ryder Cup under his spell.
Bradley, 26, from Woodstock, has made sweet music in harmony with Phil
Mickelson to the unbridled joy of the home crowd.

‘Keegan’s been like a rock star this week,’ said Donald.

US yay: Keegan Bradley shows his delight as the Americans stamp their authority on the morning foursomes, to the delight of the home crowd

US yay: Keegan Bradley shows his delight as the Americans stamp their
authority on the morning foursomes, to the delight of the home crowd

Bradley and Mickelson won their third
point by defeating Donald and Westwood 7&6 in the morning
foursomes. It was perhaps as much humiliation as a man can experience
with his clothes on and equalled the worst-ever Ryder Cup beating, when
Nick Faldo and David Gilford were flattened by Paul Azinger and Mark
O’Meara at Kiawah Island 21 years ago. If that 1991 Ryder Cup became
known as the War on the Shore, there is a distinct possibility this
might become the Mismatch at Medinah.

By lunchtime, the United States had
stretched their lead to 8-4, having won the foursomes 3-1. Everywhere
you looked American golfers were pumping fists as a pall of glumness
descended over the Europeans.

It was unimaginable to suppose
Westwood, a man with a record of distinction in seven previous Ryder
Cups, could play so disappointingly. Yet too many European players have
been far from their best.

It would be inexcusable if credit was
not paid to the Americans, so expertly managed by Love. When the
moment arises, Olazabal will accept defeat with dignity and a warm
handshake but his swansong in the Ryder Cup was not supposed to end like
this.

Ryder Cup 2012: Martin Samuel – Superhero Rory McIlroy falls to earth

Superhero McIlroy falls to earth as Americans shatter his aura

By
Martin Samuel

PUBLISHED:

00:13 GMT, 29 September 2012

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UPDATED:

00:13 GMT, 29 September 2012

Take me on, he challenged. And they did. They took him all the way to the last at Medinah Country Club on Friday morning. Then they took him and his mate to the cleaners in the afternoon. They massed the forces of American golf, and then some, to take out the world No 1.

The United States threw everything they had at Rory McIlroy on the first day of the Ryder Cup.

They threw the inspirational presence of Michael Jordan in the gallery, they threw the boisterous barracking of those famed Chicago sports fans, they threw the player American captain Davis Love regards as the greatest putter in the world right now: Brandt Snedeker. All to no avail. And then they threw Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, the hot streak pairing in the morning foursomes. And, finally, they found a way through.

Rory McIlroy

Under pressure: Rory McIlroy feels the heat

Captain Love caught a break when his form partnership ran into McIlroy and Graeme McDowell as the second match out in the afternoon fourball competition and made them look ordinary. It is a different ball game from here.

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger compared McIlroy's current status to that of Seve Ballesteros, and perhaps in McIlroy and McDowell, European captain Jose Maria Olazabal felt he had an echo of his old alliance with Ballesteros, too. By close of play on day one, however, Mickelson and Bradley had gone some way to dispelling that idea.

They paraded round the amphitheatre that is the 17th like conquering heroes after Mickelson had put his tee shot to within three feet. The Northern Irish pair, two down with two to play, conceded immediately. The Americans had put Rory in his place. Today is now a big one for him.

Chip off the block: McIlroy finds the hole from the edge of the green and celebrates with partner McDowell (below)

Chip off the block: McIlroy finds the hole from the edge of the green and celebrates with partner McDowell (below)

Perhaps weakened by a game won on the last hole that morning, McIlroy and McDowell struggled from the first. They were three down after three and fell to four adrift after eight, the final score of 2&1 barely doing America's domination justice. Once behind on the first, at no time did the scoreboard for the match show any colour bar red.

It could not have been more different from the morning session when McIlroy and McDowell took a confident three-hole lead, handed it back, and then rallied to win defiantly on the last. At the end of those 18 holes, McIlroy was upright, the bull's-eye on his back unmarked, his first point of the Ryder Cup on the board. From there, however, it became very clear how tough it will be to operate as the main man at a tournament that inflames such nationalistic passion.

'Get in the hole' became 'get in the water' when McIlroy was over the ball. It did not help that his partner McDowell seemed to be obeying those instructions at key moments. The Ryder Cup is golf's great team contest but, even so, being Rory must have felt very lonely at times.

Fans watch the play of Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell on the 17th green

McIlroy is plainly relaxed in McDowell's company and tried his best to smile through the tension, but he will not have had many harder days than this. The first game, against Snedeker and Jim Furyk, was hardly easy, but the hush as McDowell sank the decisive putt on the 18th green told the story of a psychological point won. America had taken their best shot at McIlroy and friends and missed. They then found their range in the afternoon, it must be said.

Talk had been of the blow that could be struck by defeating McIlroy in his first game, but it was America's form guy who blinked under pressure. Snedeker is in superb nick, but his wayward tee shot on the last allowed Europe's victory.

Snedeker retired hurt from the afternoon action, while McIlroy and McDowell were rushed into battle once more. By then, however, the complexion of the scoreboard was changing. Peter Hanson and Paul Lawrie were losing hugely to Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, and when the second American pair streaked ahead it put Europe into a tight spot. 'We're coming for you, Rory,' they shouted from the bleachers, and suddenly it did not sound like an empty threat.

Controversy: Graeme McDowell (C) remonstrates with Jim Furyk over a ruling at the second

Controversy: Graeme McDowell (C) remonstrates with Jim Furyk over a ruling at the second

How different from earlier, when McIlroy's strength of character dominated. The first shot of the 39th Ryder Cup revealed the exquisite torture of team golf, a mighty hook from McDowell that took leaves and twigs from a tree and nestled just north of Captain's Club II, but short of hospitality tent 36, belonging to the Aeroterm Vanquish Group.

It could have been golf's equivalent of Steve Harmison's first ball of the 2006-07 Ashes. Instead, McIlroy strode deep into corporate land and left his recovery shot just short of the green. Europe halved the hole. It set the standard for McIlroy's morning turn, his determination further cemented by a little episode on the second.

McIlroy's tee shot came to rest near a sprinkler. McDowell immediately claimed relief, America – Jim Furyk in particular – objected. The chief referee was summoned. He sided with America. Furyk looked McIlroy straight in the eye. 'You do understand, don't you' he said. He might as well have added 'sonny'. Furyk has close to 20 years on McIlroy.

Sandman: McIlroy plays from a bunker during Friday morning's Ryder Cup foursomes

Sandman: McIlroy plays from a bunker during Friday morning's Ryder Cup foursomes

So fractious was the mood that the
pairs could then not agree on whose turn it was to putt, and the pin was
used to measure distance from the hole.

'It's not going to be a nice match
now,' said Darren Clarke's mum, part of a large European entourage
following the game. 'I've never seen anything like that at the Ryder
Cup.'

McIlroy, though, grew from the incident. Faced with a difficult chip from the back of the fourth green, he sank it with a master craftsman's precision. His celebration – fist clenched, face unsmiling and defiant, eyes coldly furious – would not have been out of place on the football pitch. That sprinkler nonsense had made him angry and, like The Hulk, America wasn't going to like him when he's angry.

Yet even before the afternoon session there were signs of mental fatigue. Three up standing on the 13th tee, Team Northern Ireland were comfortable. Even when Furyk sank a par putt to claw a hole back, Europe's win seemed assured. But 15 is the ultimate risk-reward hole, a short par four with a green that can be taken on from the tee, but is guarded by serious water.

Stars and stripes: Phil Mickelson celebrates with wife Amy (R) after defeating McIlroy and McDowell

Stars and stripes: Phil Mickelson celebrates with wife Amy (R) after defeating McIlroy and McDowell

Furyk went bold, almost drove the green. McDowell tried to follow him, found the lake. It seemed a poor call. He could just as easily have laid up and trusted McIlroy to target the pin. Now the crowd were raucous and the lead cut to one. At the next, Snedeker put his second shot to three feet. All square.

And that was how it remained until the last, when Snedeker cracked, sending his tee shot wildly right. McDowell found sand with his second. Now it was McIlroy's moment. He stepped into the bunker and lofted the ball close.

McDowell did the rest. It was gladiatorial golf at its finest. They started an argument: he finished it.

By the afternoon, though, the scoreboard had been painted red. McIlroy looked exhausted. McDowell had struck his last shot of the day in the drink. 'Oh baby, I wish I could go 36 more,' said Bradley. Then again, he doesn't have a dirty great bull's-eye on his back.

Keegan Bradley brings new backbone to USA

Rookie Bradley brings new backbone to USA

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UPDATED:

23:36 GMT, 28 September 2012

The only time Keegan Bradley had
attended a Ryder Cup before this was the notorious Brookline edition in
1999, when his father Mark hoisted the then 13 year-old on his shoulders
to give him a view over the crowds.

Mark Bradley could not help but
remember that visit on Friday as he watched his son overcome cloying
nerves on the first tee and nail his opening drive down the fairway in
the second Foursomes match of the Ryder Cup.

Get in: Keegan Bradley celebrates

Get in: Keegan Bradley celebrates

As last year's USPGA winner Keegan should be equipped to deal with the major moments, that title earning him repeat chants of 'Major winner!' before he teed off, designed to mock his opponents Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, who have so far fallen short of that honour.

The family Bradley – which includes Auntie Pat, one of America's best women golfers – need not have worried, for that drive up the first was the precursor to one of the finest debut days ever seen in the competition.

The 26 year-old from Vermont capped a magnificent display with his belly putter by holing a monster on the fifteenth to down Donald and Garcia four and three before lunch, and afterwards he helped derail the European juggernaut of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell two and one alongside Phil Mickelson.

More than anyone, even Nicolas Colsaerts, Bradley made this the day of the rookie, and with his wired, eye-bulging intensity he turned out to be America's answer to Ian Poulter. Asked if he was tired at the end he blurted 'Oh baby, I could go 36 more.'

Up for it: Bradley after nearly making a long eagle putt on the 15th

Up for it: Bradley after nearly making a long eagle putt on the 15th

Another massive achievement was that he
managed to turn Mickelson into some kind of Ryder Cup titan rather than
the wimp he has often looked in this competition.

Against Europe's go-to pairing in the afternoon Bradley, lining up his
putts with the look of a psychopath planning some dastardly deed,
delivered five birdies to establish a three hole lead.

When his level then dropped a little Mickelson was inspired to step into
the breach, carving out a series of halves against McIlroy to protect
it, culminating with a sensational drive on the seventeenth over the
water to win their second point .

Over these three days the Americans desperately need their veteran
triumvirate of Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk, who have been the
wobbly spine of the team for the past fifteen years, to come good.

Delight: Bradley celebrates victory over Donald and Garcia

Delight: Bradley celebrates victory over Donald and Garcia

They bear the most responsibility for America's sliding performance in
the bi-annual as a virtual common denominator in the turnaround of the
Europeans' fortunes that goes back to Mickelson's debut in 1995.

The Californian has four Majors, but prior to yesterday he had played in
eight Ryder Cups and won just fourteen points from 34 matches, too
often going missing when his team most needed him.

Woods has only a marginally better record and Furyk one even worse, but
at least Mickleson yesterday started to look more backbone than
invertebrate, thanks to the company of someone who was barely nine when
he made his Ryder Cup debut.