Saturday, 29 September 2012
Nicolas Colsaerts  (Getty Images)
Nicolas Colsaerts (Getty Images)
After just one game Nicolas Colsaerts can already be called a Ryder Cup star - the man who saved holders Europe from being whitewashed in a session for the first time since 1981.

Belgium's first player to appear in the match had an incredible eight birdies and an eagle in the final fourball game of the day in Chicago.

Partner Lee Westwood, winning his eighth cap, did not contribute a single birdie or eagle to the cause, but together they were able to celebrate a win that kept America's lead down to 5-3 going into the weekend.

Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were the pair beaten and so, on the Medinah course where he has played two Major Championships and won them both, Woods lost his first two games just like he did in 1999, 2002 and 2004.

Woods was all over the show in the morning as Justin Rose and Ian Poulter won 2 and 1.

It was so bad Davis Love had reason to drop him instantly, but that would be a first and the American Captain decided to give him another chance with Stricker.

Woods then played far better and was close to producing a three-birdie finish that would have snatched a half, but he was no match for the inspired Colsaerts, making a bid to become the most famous Belgian in history.

"It was a lot of fun," Colsaerts said. "I've never had so much fun and I want to have more.

“I dreamt about it - it's difficult to imagine you're going to do so well, but this is what match play is.  

“You have to hole it because you know the other guy is going to get it on top of you. So your focus gets very intense, and I'm proud that I played the best way I could.”

The most dramatic moment came on the short 17th when, with Woods three feet away, he rolled in a 22 footer for a matching two.

"Tiger played great this afternoon, but Colsaerts played unbelievable golf," Love said. "Tiger would have beaten anybody else."

What the 29 year old wildcard did was badly needed on a day when Phil Mickelson celebrated becoming America's most capped Ryder Cup player with two wins.

Mickelson, in his ninth successive match, teamed up with pumped-up debutant Keegan Bradley to beat previously unbeaten foursomes duo Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia 4 and 3, then World Number One McIlroy and McDowell 2 and 1.

The left-hander clinched that with a glorious iron on the short 17th. 

"That baby was all over the flagstick, but until you see it land you just never know," he said.

Bradley added: "That shot showed why Phil Mickelson is a Hall of Famer - and I've got so much energy I wish I could go 36 (holes) more."

It had been Love's two current Major Champions who had given their side the momentum after the morning foursomes had been tied 2-2.

Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson, whipping up the crowd even before he hit a shot, and US Open winner Webb Simpson went to the turn in 29 and were a brilliant ten under par in winning 5 and 4 over Scot Paul Lawrie and Swede Peter Hanson, like them omitted from the opening session.

That took the United States 4-2 up and Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar made it 5-2 with a 3 and 2 victory over Rose and Martin Kaymer.

Earlier in the day McIlroy and McDowell fought off a great comeback to win on the last green against Jim Furyk and last weekend's FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker.

But after Europe had led in all four games two hours into the eagerly-awaited clash, the Northern Irishmen's victory followed the first-ever foursomes defeat for both Donald - playing in the city that has been his home for the last 15 years - and Garcia.

After six successive wins in the format for Donald and eight wins and a half for Garcia since he made his debut in 1999, they went down 4 and 3 to Mickelson and Bradley, while Westwood and Francesco Molinari were beaten 3 and 2 by Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.

Poulter took his record to nine wins and only three defeats in the morning session as he and Rose beat Woods and Stricker.

Two of those losses came versus Woods, so to grab his scalp was always going to be huge and his key putt on the 16th was greeted by his now trademark "Come On" roar.

Woods hit a spectator on the head for the second day running and he and Stricker were three over par when they lost, easily the worst scoring of the session.

McDowell and McIlroy lost the second then had six birdies in seven holes, the first of them the result of a genius chip by the 23 year old from over the fourth green.

Furyk had incurred a penalty on the long tenth when his ball move as he prepared to chip, but he and his partner fought back to level, only for Snedeker to hit a wayward drive down the last.

There was still work to be done when McDowell hit into the bunker short of the green, but his partner splashed out to five feet and the 2010 match-winner made no mistake.

Donald said of the defeat for him and Garcia, who were looking to make it five out of five together: "We played solid, they just played a little better."

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