Europe staged a stirring comeback to lead the USA 5-3 going into the second day of the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
Paul McGinley’s home side won 3½ points out of four in the afternoon foursomes session on Friday to claw back a deficit of 2½-1½ on an absorbing day in the hills of Perthshire.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson were the star partnership for Europe with a 5&4 fourball victory against Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, and a 2&1 foursomes win over Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson.
Friday’s foursomes (Europe first)
Jamie Donaldson & Lee Westwood won 2up Jim Furyk & Matt Kuchar
Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson won 2&1 Hunter Mahan & Zach Johnson
Rory McIlroy & Sergio Garcia halved Jimmy Walker & Rickie Fowler
Victor Dubuisson & Graeme McDowell won 3&2 Phil Mickelson & Keegan Bradley
Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia lost their morning fourball with a narrow last-hole defeat to Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, but forced a crucial half on the final hole against Rickie Fowler and US debutant Jimmy Walker.
Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson beat Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar by two holes to secure the first foursomes point, while Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson ended Mickelson and Bradley’s run of four straight wins with a 3&2 victory.
By contrast, Europe were 5-3 down at the end of the opening day at Medinah two years ago.
“We have seen in Ryder Cups over the years how important momentum is and we showed real strength of character to respond to that American surge and get blue back on the board,” said European captain McGinley, a veteran of three Ryder Cups as a player.
“It’s been a great day, a lot of momentum, but let’s take stock.”
England’s Rose and Swede Stenson, neighbours in Lake Nona, Florida, maintained their formidable form on a breezy afternoon and quickly forged ahead with birdies at the first and sixth.
Mahan and Johnson, playing their first match of the day, were soon level after winning two straight holes, but Rose drained a lengthy putt on the 11th and made another decent one for a half on the 12th prompting Stenson to bow before him in admiration. The Americans were all-square again by the 14th but Europe won the 15th and 17th to seal the win.
“It’s been really special, the captain put a lot of faith in me and Henrik, sending us out first this morning,” said Rose. “I thought we were really strong today.”
Golf correspondent Iain Carter at Gleneagles:
“Paul McGinley was right to praise Europe’s strength of character. Their positive start to the afternoon session was vital to the stunning foursomes fightback.
“Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson look a formidable partnership and they needed plenty of resolve to overcome Johnson and Mahan. But the three closing birdies that rescued a half for Garcia and McIlroy were of huge significance.
“US captain Tom Watson will rue dropping Spieth and Reed. He stuck with his template for the day, rather than reacting to their highly impressive morning victory over Poulter and Gallacher. Hindsight says it was the wrong move.”
The Europeans lost the third but were all-square with a birdie on the short sixth and stayed ahead until the end after winning the seventh with a par.
“I have as much fun playing as I do watching someone take to it like a duck to water,” said Westwood of Donaldson.
The Welshman added: “That first tee is like a sudden death play-off in a major – it feels like there’s 20,000 people on one hole. It’s incredible. It’s an awesome event to play in.”
Northern Ireland’s McDowell and enigmatic French debutant Dubuisson went ahead at the second and were never less than one up to keep Mickelson and Bradley at bay in the final match of the day.
In other morning matches, American rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed defeated Medinah hero Ian Poulter and Scottish debutant Stephen Gallacher 5&4 but US captain Tom Watson may rue leaving the youngsters out of the foursomes, while Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer shared a half with Fowler and Walker.