• Ryder Cup

Inspired Garcia and McIlroy propel Europe

ESPN staff
September 26, 2014
Rory McIlroy earned half a point with Sergio Garcia in the afternoon foursomes © PA Photos

Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia rescued half a point with an inspired performance in the afternoon foursomes to help Europe to a 5-3 lead on the opening day of the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

The pair, beaten 1-up by Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson in the morning fourballs, were two down with two holes to go against Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler but managed to finish all square to keep Europe in front at 4-3.

Graeme McDowell handed Europe a 5-3 lead with his winning putt on the 16th green © PA Photos

Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell then stretched Europe's lead with a 3&2 victory against Mickelson and Bradley in the final match of the day.

"We needed it," McIlroy said of his and Garcia's fightback. "We were making life difficult for ourselves out there. I don't think either of us were playing from the fairway very much.

"We've played two very tough matches and at least we've taken a half point from it. On 17, there was a little bit of dirt on the line but Sergio said 'it's easier to hit the hole than hit that!'"

Garcia added: "I left my best two swings for the last two holes. I hit a great 5-wood. I felt like I owed him a lot today. We fought hard, we knew we weren't playing great."

Having salvaged a half-point late on in their opening fourballs match against Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer, Walker and Fowler were on the receiving end of a stirring fightback the second time around.

'I knew I wasn't playing five matches'

Ian Poulter lost his Gleneagles opener © Getty Images
  • After being thrashed in his opening match of the Ryder Cup on Friday, Ian Poulter dismisses his afternoon rest as all part of the plan.
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After Garcia found the 17th green, world No.1 McIlroy sunk a 40-foot putt for birdie to level the match. However, he then put his tee shot on the 18th in the rough after striking a tree.

Europe looked in trouble only for Garcia to conjure an astonishing approach shot, finding the green, pin high, sending the ball spinning back towards the hole.

McIlroy couldn't pull off another miracle though and left his attempt about six inches short, with Fowler hitting an abject effort from 12 feet.

It was a half point each, but certainly felt like a win for Europe.

McDowell capped off a fine end to the day for Europe by sealing victory for himself and Dubuisson - who were both left out of the morning fourballs - on the 16th with a putt that was almost the same line and length as his winning effort at Celtic Manor in 2010.

Having formed a successful partnership with McIlroy at the past two Ryder Cups, much had been made about the ongoing legal battle involving the world No.1 and McDowell.

Indeed, Mickelson, one of the men that McDowell was up against on Friday, had even quipped that the US team "don't litigate against each other" in the build-up to Gleneagles.

Europe captain Paul McGinley opted not to put the two Northern Irishmen together, as had been expected, with McDowell saying earlier this week that their dynamic has "changed forever" following four-time major winner McIlroy's recent success.

Debutant Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood saw off Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar in the foursomes © Getty Images

McDowell appears to have found the perfect new partner in Ryder Cup debutant Dubuisson, however, playing the "older brother" role he said he used to have with McIlroy as they took advantage of a tiring Mickelson and Bradley.

Turning to the Frenchman after their victory, McDowell said "I love you, brother" before lauding Dubuisson in his post-match interview.

"I always get great partners at the Ryder Cup," McDowell told Sky Sports. "I played with Rory McIlroy so much. But I'm telling you, this kid [Dubuisson] is the next great superstar in Europe.

"He is really, really good. I told him to use the crowd to help him. He really didn't need much advice, I just had to wind him up and let him go."

Dubuisson added: "I got on the tee with Graeme and all the stress disappeared. He has been fantastic with me in the last few months and days and he has been a big help to me."

America had come from behind to finish 2.5-1.5 in the fourballs earlier on Friday, but their lead was quickly wiped out.

With all four men left out in the morning, Ryder Cup debutant Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood came out on top to beat US duo Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar 2-up in the opening match of the afternoon foursomes and level the scores at 2.5-2.5.

With the win, Westwood took his Ryder Cup points tally to 22, just three behind Sir Nick Faldo's European and overall record of 25.

Justin Rose celebrates after sinking a putt on the 11th green in the afternoon foursomes © Getty Images

"I love it - I have as much fun playing for myself as I do watching somebody take to it like a duck to water," Westwood said. "Between us we played lovely, we got round in about four-under which is superb foursomes golf in these conditions."

Donaldson was left in awe after his first taste of the Ryder Cup. He said: "It's a battle; we've played as well as I think we can play there. 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."

Having already beaten Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 5&4 in the morning, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson then gave Europe the lead by claiming their second point of the day with a 2&1 victory over Hunter Mahan and Zack Johnson.

Rose, whose Ryder Cup record now reads 8-3-0, sunk a three-footer to seal the match at 17, recording six birdies in 17 holes overall.

"It's been really, really special," Rose told Sky Sports: "The captain put a lot of faith in me and Henrik. We were really strong today in the foursomes. It was just a great day. I really enjoyed it."

There is a strong possibility Rose could end up playing five rounds over three days given the way he has started at Gleneagles and he is eagerly anticipating the challenge.

"This week you do what you are told, but there is no moaning," he said. "To have the opportunity to play in this tournament is a pleasure and a privilege."

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