MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - A fired-up Phil Mickelson and an in-form Keegan Bradley won both their matches together as the United States stormed ahead 5-3 over holders Europe on a gripping first day of the 39th Ryder Cup on Friday.
The teams split the morning foursomes session 2-2 but the Americans won three of the four fourball matches in the afternoon to seize control of the biennial competition at Medinah Country Club.
Tiger Woods lost both his matches for the U.S. while world number one Rory McIlroy split his two on a day when the rookies shone brightest.
Bubba Watson and first-timer Webb Simpson set the tone for the U.S. in the afternoon with a dazzling display of shot-making and clutch putts, piling up 10 birdies together to pummel Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Swede Peter Hanson 5&4.
Cup veteran Mickelson and rookie Bradley followed suit with a 2&1 victory over McIlroy and Graeme McDowell before Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar defeated Englishman Justin Rose and Germany’s Martin Kaymer 3&2.
In the bottom match, Belgian rookie Nicolas Colsaerts kept holing lengthy putts as he and Britain’s Lee Westwood held off a late birdie flurry by Woods to beat him and his partner Steve Stricker 1 up.
U.S. captain Davis Love III has set up Medinah’s No. 3 course with virtually no rough to create a birdie fest this week and after both teams took advantage in the first session, it was mainly the Americans and Colsaerts who feasted in the afternoon.
Watson and rookie Simpson, held back for the morning’s foursomes, came out all guns blazing in bright sunshine before sealing a commanding win at the par-five 14th.
The crowd crammed around the green erupted in loud cheers after Watson was conceded the team’s 10th birdie after he lagged his eagle putt close to the hole.
“We ran into a bit of a wall,” Hanson said after the European duo’s total of six birdies was swept aside.
“They were nine under through the first 10 holes, and we just couldn’t jump on the train. That birdie train left, and we were six down after 10. It’s hard to get back.”
Mickelson and Bradley birdied the first three holes to take control against McIlroy and his fellow Northern Irishman McDowell.
Though the Europeans came from four down after eight holes to trail by two with two to play, Mickelson secured victory with a stunning tee shot to within two feet at the par-three 17th.
Mickelson and Bradley, who had outplayed his more experienced partner with a personal haul of six birdies, hugged each other in celebration as the crowd erupted with deafening cheers.
”I‘m just having such a blast playing with Phil,“ said a jubilant Bradley, who has been mentored by Mickelson since he made his debut on the PGA Tour last year. ”That was the best shot I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
“I‘m just happy to be a part of it. It could be the best day of my life. It was so much fun.”
Colsaerts, also making his Ryder Cup debut, produced astonishing form in his first match, racking up nine birdies and an eagle.
Woods, who had struggled badly in the morning, made five birdies in the last nine holes to give the Americans a faint chance of winning but he narrowly missed a 15-footer at the last to hand the Europeans their only point of the afternoon.
Bidding to win the Ryder Cup for only the second time in six editions, the Americans had trailed in all four of the morning’s opening foursomes before fighting back to split the session.
Bradley and Mickelson earned the first point by beating Britain’s Luke Donald and Spaniard Sergio Garcia 4&3, then a second when Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner defeated Westwood and Francesco Molinari of Italy 3&2.
McIlroy and McDowell came through for Europe when they edged Jim Furyk and rookie Brandt Snedeker one up after a fluctuating battle in the opening match before Ian Poulter and Rose squared the ledger by beating Woods and Stricker 2&1.
Europe, under the captaincy of Jose Maria Olazabal, field one of their strongest ever lineups but face a challenging task to retain the trophy with the U.S. having lost only three times on home soil since the matches began in 1927.
Editing by Julian Linden