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Friday, 24 September 1999
Europe launched their defence of the Ryder Cup with a stirring first morning foursomes series against the United States at The Country Club, Brookline, today.

The European side, bidding to win the trophy for the third time in a row, captured the foursomes 2 ½ - 1 ½ after several outstanding performances in the baking Boston sun.

It was the first time since Muirfield in 1973 that Europe had won the first session of foursomes, and the visiting side were indebted to two superb victories at the top of the order.

Open champion Paul Lawrie, a Ryder Cup rookie, gained his first point in the tournament along with the experienced Colin Montgomerie, beating the tough pairing of David Duval and Phil Mickelson by 3 and 2.

Then teenager Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik of Sweden weighed in with another vital point, coming from two down after five to close out world No.1 Tiger Woods and Tom Lehman 2 and 1.

Padraig Harrington had a chance on the final green to ensure a 3-1 lunch time lead for the Europeans when he and partner Miguel Angel Jimenez were six feet away in two at the last against Payne Stewart and Davis Love III.

However the ball stayed above the hole and that half still managed to keep captain Mark James happy with his team's start, even though Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke lost 3 and 2 to Hal Sutton and Jeff Maggert.

James said: "I think it's a good performance, but the striking thing was the standard of play. Both teams played fabulous golf. Running up to it I said my team was playing well and Ben said his team was playing well and it wasn't hype. They proved it this morning.

"It doesn't matter what position they are in, they have to play good players but all four groups played good golf. Lee (Westwood) and Darren (Clarke) made 15 pars and a birdie and there was nothing wrong with that. I said I was putting them out to shoot the lowest possible score and they've done me proud this morning. It's an excellent start."

Montgomerie, the on-course 'team leader' for Europe, did exactly that - leading by example with two magnificent putts on the first two holes for pars. One down after six, Montgomerie and Lawrie gradually gained the ascendancy and pulled off a fine win.

The Scot said: "Paul did well for his first time. He didn't have to prove himself as Open champion but he did very well. He took the opening tee shot and hit it well. We fit in well together."

Lawrie commented: "We combined to play pretty well, but Colin is like a rock. He's a fantastic player and it's nice to play with him. His first two putts were very testing and holing them made a big difference."

Garcia and Parnevik were two down after five but showed great composure and tenacity to come back and beat Woods and Lehman - arguably the USA's strongest pairing of the morning.

Parnevik was happy to be paired with the young Spaniard and said: "That was very exciting. Both Tiger and Tom played very well and solid. On the back nine it seemed we were both putting for birdie at every hole. It was just so close and I'm very happy.

"They got two up straight away and we really had to play well to keep up. Every match is enjoyable. I remember my start with Per-Ulrik in 1997 and that was great, but this was a very exciting comeback. Sergio played great - hit a lot of great iron shots and chip shots. I knew he would do that.

"He might be 19 on his birth certificate but he isn't really. We definitely needed that one because Tiger and Tom are playing so well. A great start."

Garcia, an amateur six months ago but now with a Ryder Cup point under his belt, enthused: "I really enjoyed it. It was very good and I'm happy to help Europe get a point. I knew it was always going to be very very tight.

"They are tough and we knew that. At the first Tom was pretty lucky when he chipped in. It was going 25 feet past. They won the fifth so it was hard but we hung in and came back well.

"Jesper was a great partner. We shot two under par in foursomes and that is very good in the wind. I felt pretty good in the morning and comfortable. We are comfortable together. He gave me a lot of confidence. The match is so different from stroke play and I loved it."

Europe had the opportunity to stretch that lead but Jimenez and Harrington lost the 17th, having been one up with two to play against Stewart and Love.

In the end, the teams settled for a half after birdie putts slipped past the hole and Jimenez commented: "I enjoyed it very much. A tough match, having to play 18 holes and to come back from two down was very good. "We even had a chance to win the match near the end but I made a mistake at the 17th and my driver went into the trees. I missed the drive and we lost the hole. On the 18th I hit an eight iron and it was a tough putt. That's the game. We played well and I always say it's good to be ahead as we are right now."

Westwood and Clarke did little wrong in their bottom foursomes match and Westwood point out: "They bogeyed the first then made six birdies and all pars. You can't do much against that. We made 15 pars and one birdie. We are both playing well. We were taking a look at the leader boards out there. We are a team - you want to see how the other guys are doing."

Clarke continued: "They both played very well. They hit the ball solid. I think they only missed a couple of greens. They didn't open any doors after the bogey at the first."

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