27 Sep 2014

Europe roar back into Ryder Cup lead

2:50 pm on 27 September 2014

Golf's Ryder Cup delivered yet again as Europe produced a stirring fightback against the United States and take a 5-3 lead after a typically tense first day in Scotland.

Europe's Rory McIlroy celebrates a birdie putt. Ryder Cup. Scotland. 2014.

Europe's Rory McIlroy celebrates a birdie putt. Ryder Cup. Scotland. 2014. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The US had much the best of the morning fourballs, the highlight being a remarkable performance by rookie duo Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth to hammer Ian Poulter and Scottish new boy Stephen Gallacher 5 & 4.

That helped the visitors to a 2 1/2-1 1/2 lead after a session where gusting winds made low scoring difficult but merely added to the drama for the fans who swamped the Gleneagles course.

Europe roared back in the alternate-shot foursomes format, as Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson got their second point of the day with a two-up victory over Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson having earlier hammered Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 5 & 4.

Europe's strongest pair on paper, world numbers one and three Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, struggled almost all day and were well beaten by Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the fourballs.

They looked to be going down again when they trailed Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler by two with two to play in the afternoon but a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th by McIlroy and a brilliant second from deep rough by Garcia on the last enabled them to scramble the unlikeliest of points.

"I think that half was as a good as a win," said European captain Paul McGinley. "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."

That surge was begun by Spieth, 21, and Reed, 24, - the youngest partnership in the history of the event - who were nerveless and relentless in taking down Europe's "Mr Ryder Cup" Poulter with a run of five birdies in six holes around the turn.

"It was very quiet around our group and that was a goal we had to achieve," said Spieth.

Spieth and Reed were somewhat surprised to be told after their dazzling debuts that they would be sitting out the afternoon's action and Watson might come to rue his decision after the foursomes turnaround.

Poulter, who had won 11 of his previous 12 matches, also kept his clubs in the bag in the afternoon but nobody was questioning that move as the wildcard selection looked a pale shadow of the demonic player who sparked Europe's "Miracle of Medinah" comeback two years ago.

The US now face an uphill battle if they are to claim their first win on foreign soil since 1993 when Watson first captained but the veteran was in no mood to concede.

"This is a marathon, not a sprint," he said. "And it's all probably going to be really close come the final day on Monday."