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Friday, 22 September 2006

Europe take a 5-3 lead into the second day of The 2006 Ryder Cup after a sensational day’s golf at The K Club which saw seven of the eight matches go to the 18th. It is the fifth successive Ryder Cup that Europe have led after the first day.

All 12 of Ian Woosnam charges played their part in a thrilling opening day with a swashbuckling Sergio Garcia leading the way with two wins. The Spaniard, a comfortable winner in the morning with José Maria Olazábal, continued his 100% foursomes record by partnering Luke Donald to a two hole victory over the United States top pairing of Tiger Woods and  Jim Furyk. It was the only match of the afternoon not to be halved as, for the first time in Ryder Cup history, three matches in a session ended all square with Europe taking the honours 2 ½ - 1 ½.

“I played all my players and I think they played exceptionally well, every single one of them,” said Woosnam. “To be leading is a marvellous day, for me and my team, and it’s a fantastic experience in the team room.”

Woosnam was full of praise for all his players and his top scorer in particular. “Sergio just lifted his game unbelievably, which he seems to do when he plays in The Ryder Cup. He has that Spanish spirit, and out there with Olazábal, what a great pairing.”

Colin Montgomerie was another player who time and again has raised his game at crucial times and the afternoon foursomes was no exception as he and Lee Westwood won the final hole to halve their match, Montgomerie holing from six feet for a birdie in what could prove to be a pivotal as the pendulum swung Europe’s way.

“Lee hit a fantastic first putt from 100 feet away and then Monty, how many times have we seen him hole that left to right putt coming back. He’s done it so many times, and he’s got such courage. What a man to have on your team.”

Paul McGinley continued a remarkable run that has seen him unbeaten in his last six matches as he and Padraig Harrington fought a close match with Chad Campbell and Zach Johnson which ended in all square.

“It was a great day for the Europeans,” said McGinley. “Quite amazing that seven of the eight games went to the 18th; that's incredible. It just shows how closely matched the two teams are. It’s going to be closely fought between two greatly matched teams. We have the advantage because we’ve got the momentum. Momentum is very important in The Ryder Cup. We’ve certainly got it. The fact we didn’t lose a match this afternoon was definitely a momentum booster.

“It’s important to follow that and keep going. Another big day tomorrow so we’ve got to take advantage and keep going.”

The second day sees Woosnam putting out three of the same fourball pairings as day one with Paul Casey again partnering Robert Karlsson in the top match against Stewart Cink and J.J. Henry.

Garcia and Olazábal will face Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco while Darren Clarke and Westwood face Woods and Furyk. The only change on the European line-up is that Henrik Stenson will now partner Padraig Harrington in the anchor match against Scott Verplank and Zach Johnson.

For US Captain Tom Lehman, he has the job of rejuvenating his team to try and turn the tide. “There were  a lot of tight matches. We didn’t make a lot of putts and that was the difference between the two teams. The European Team definitely made the putts they needed to when they had to and we hit a couple of loose shots when we needed good shots. And at the end of the day it’s 5-3.”

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