MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell struck the first shot of the 39th Ryder Cup on Friday, pulling his drive well left of the fairway at the par-four opening hole to launch the morning’s foursomes matches.
The 2010 U.S. Open champion partnered compatriot and world number one Rory McIlroy for holders Europe in the alternate shot format while Jim Furyk and rookie Brandt Snedeker led off for hosts the United States in the first of four encounters.
The four players were given a rousing welcome by the fans packed around the first tee, chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole”, “Olly, Olly, Olly” and “USA, USA, USA” echoing across the course at Medinah Country Club.
Furyk, wearing a balaclava, struck the first shot for the U.S. and, like McDowell, his drive missed the fairway to the left. However both teams recovered to par the 396-yard hole.
Ryder Cup veteran Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley will take on Britain’s Luke Donald and Spaniard Sergio Garcia in the second match out before rookie Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson face Britain’s Lee Westwood and Italy’s Francesco Molinari.
In the final foursomes encounter, a mouth-watering matchup pits the potent U.S. duo of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker against Englishmen Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.
“It was my gut feeling that we would get Tiger and Strick and that is what we have got,” said Poulter. “Tiger and Strick are a very good pairing and they are going to come out at us with all guns blazing.”
Woods and Stricker have gelled successfully in both the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, compiling a 6-2 record, though they have lost their last two matches together.
“Strick and I are pretty comfortable together,” said Woods. “We’ve had some pretty good success over the years and we both have been playing well.”
The U.S. team, captained by Davis Love III, bristle with firepower and will be bidding to win the Ryder Cup for only the second time in six editions of the biennial team competition.
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.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Mark Meadows