Europe enjoyed a sensational opening session in The 35th Ryder Cup Matches as they get off to a magnificent start with a 3 ½ - ½ lead after the opening fourballs at Oakland Hills Country Club.
On a remarkable first morning, the leaderboards were a sea of blue as the Americans failed to get ahead in any of the four matches.
Once again an inspired Colin Montgomerie, playing alongside Padraig Harrington, set the tone, birdieing the opening hole to take first blood against the top American pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. It was the first hole of a titanic battle but the European kept their noses in front throughout, picking up a combined seven birdies in their first eight holes to edge two up.
Mickelson and Woods kept clawing back but Harrington birdies at the 12th and 14th holes took Europe three up and victory was duly completed by Montgomerie on the 17th for a 2 and 1 win.
The first point was put on the board by a rampaging Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jiménez as they raced to a stunning 5 and 4 win over and our of sorts Davis Love III and Chad Campbell, who only managed one birdie between them.
The fourth match out of the course was heading for a similar conclusion, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood combining as they did at The De Vere Belfry to race to three up after four holes before closing out David Toms and Jim Furyk 5 and 3.
That left the third group on the course and here was a classic match, neither pairing giving an inch as Paul McGinley and rookie Luke Donald fought tooth and nail with Chris Riley and Stewart Cink. It wasn’t until the sixth that the European pair edged ahead for the first time but two holes later they were pegged back to level. Again at the 13th the Europeans got their noses in front only to be back to all square after the 14th. And that was the way the matched remained. Donald played one of the great shots of the day, a stunning two iron to the last green to put the pressure on the Americans but Riley rose to the challenge to hole a crucial three foot par putt to prevent a European clean sweep.
“I’m thrilled and so are the players,” said Langer. “We wanted to make a fast start and it doesn’t get much better than that. Some people might say unbelievable… but I know how good my guys are. They were ready. They were confident. And I know they will not be complacent. It’s a wonderful way to start the Matches and now we must build on the foundation we laid. The guys are focused on doing that. They are focused on playing their own games, giving themselves chances. They are class players and they emphasised that this morning.
“The fourballs looked great to me on paper but the guys still had to perform. Monty set the standard with that first hole birdie and that got the momentum rolling. I had an idea that Hal was going to put Tiger and Phil out first…and Padraig and Monty were keen to take them on. They continued as a partnership from where they left off at the Belfry in 2002. They are very comfortable with each other. It was a big win and right behind them Darren and Miguel were awesome. Darren played some of the best golf he’s ever played.
“We all saw how well Sergio and Lee played together at the Belfry and so I was always going to pair them up here. They responded again in great style. Paul and Luke had a tough game. It always looked as if it would go all the way. The key was not to lose and from our point of view, to finish the morning with 3 ½ points is brilliant. I can’t say enough about the spectators. They were fantastic. They were fair all the way round and that’s all we asked for. The atmosphere is terrific. We are in front and we aim to keep it that way… but there is also a long way to go.”