Rose and Poulter narrowly lost on the final green(Getty Images)

Europe suffer early setbacks

Europe trail 3-1 after the Friday Morning Foursomes

By Michael Gibbons- Europeantour.com

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The United States drew first blood in The 2008 Ryder Cup in a rollercoaster opening session at Valhalla Golf Club to lead 3-1. It was the first time the US had taken the opening series since 1991.

Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan recovered from two down after two holes to beat Europe's Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey 3&2 in the second foursomes match out on the course while Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell beat Justin Rose and Ian Pouter on the final green, with the other matches ending all square.

It was Leonard's first victory in nine matches, coming on his first appearance since the USA's victory at The Country Club, Brookline in 1999.

It gave Paul Azinger's side the ideal start as they attempted to avoid a fourth straight defeat following two nine point defeats at Oakland Hills in 2004 and The K Club in 2006.

Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim halved the opening contest against Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson despite the European duo being three up with six holes to play.

The Americans looked to have the advantage on the 18th after finding a greenside bunker in two on the par five, but Kim left his escape shot on the bank of the bunker.

Mickelson's chip came up five feet short but Kim bravely holed for par to halve the hole after Harrington had missed from ten feet for a winning birdie.

"We are disappointed," admitted Harrington. "We had a chance on the last to win and I thought I had holed it.

"But apart from that we can't complain, we fought hard and turned a lot of holes over."

Harrington started with a six foot birdie putt, but went into the hazard on the short third. Despite a poor drive from Karlsson, Europe went back in front on the sixth and they scrambled a half at the par five next after Harrington had found their third hazard.

Harrington received treatment on his neck after Europe bogeyed the 180 yard eighth. Mickelson saved a half with a great bunker recovery on nine, but he and rookie Kim fell behind for the third time at the next.

They were in deep trouble after their bogey on the 208 yard 11th and Harrington's brilliant approach to three feet won the 12th as well - a 40 foot Mickelson putt was only for par. But the Americans came back to level by taking the next three, the second of them after a magical Mickelson chip and the third when he made an 18 footer.

The 16th and 17th were halved - and so was the last when Kim made a six footer after driving into sand and only just getting out of a greenside bunker. Karlsson also drove into sand and Harrington just failed to follow his crucial 12 footer on the 16th with another to win.

"We got a half a point against a very strong team, but we were three up with six to go, so obviously it's not perfect," said Karlsson. "But, at the end of the day, we got a halve. We were under pressure the last few holes, so at the end of the day, it wasn't too bad."

In the second game out Europe took an early two shot lead but Mahan then holed from 15 feet for birdie on the third and six feet on the next as the Americans won three holes in succession.

Casey and Stenson also contributed to their own troubles by twice finding water on the seventh to go two down, but a birdie on the tenth cut the deficit in half.

Mahan's superb approach to the 14th put the home pair two ahead again and it was effectively all over when Casey's drive on the next found the creek which runs down the right of the hole.

The European pair scrambled a pair on the 16th hole in an attempt to keep the match alive, but Leonard tapped in for a matching par to seal his first victory in nine Ryder Cup matches.

Poulter and Rose -- three up at one stage - drew level on the 15th with a par four but then played the18th poorly to hand Cink and Campbell victory.

Rose charged a 12 foot birdie putt five feet past the hole and when Poulter missed the return, Campbell did not even have to try to hole from three feet for birdie.

"That was a tough loss," admitted Rose. "We were three up at one point which makes you feel like you shouldn't be losing the game but that's the Ryder Cup for you. It was a great game but we have come out on the wrong side which never makes it nice to handle.

"But it was a great first taste of The Ryder Cup in terms of the atmosphere. The US have got ahead but the Europeans are excited about going out there and putting one or two things right."

Poulter concurred in saying: "We were three up, played great and it is amazing how it can turn round so quickly. You don't do too much wrong but a bit of luck not going your way and couple of poor shots and we got punished for it. It's a shame. We felt we were in decent control of that match.

"But we are playing well, feel good and we are hitting good shots and that's all you can do. We played awesome on that front nine. We were a couple under in foursomes and that's all you can do and we just need to continue that and keep going."

Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood produced a stirring comeback in the morning's final match to steal a half from Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk.

The European pair were two down with two to play but Garcia held his putt on 17 and when the Americans found the water at the last Nick Faldo's most experienced pair were able to square the contest.

"It was always going to be a tough match, said Westwood. "When we saw the draw with Kenny Perry and his home support and a battler, and Jim, I have played with Jim a lot and he doesn't give anything away, so we feel like the almost won that game getting a half out of it.

"Half a point is actually a point as they lose half a point and we win one. Anytime you can get out of jail like that makes a massive difference and can be a momentum shift for the rest of the team."

Garcia added: "If you look at it we missed a couple of shots, like the one of the 15th, but they missed a couple coming in too so it all evened up. They are two great players, Jim is playing extremely well and it was a hard fight."

The afternoon fourballs opened with Irish duo Harrington and Graeme McDowell facing Mickelson and Kim. Rose and Poulter had a chance to make amends for their morning defeat against rookie pairing Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis, Garcia partners fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jim�nez against Leonard and Mahan, while Westwood and S�ren Hansen round off the day against JB Holmes and Boo Weekley.