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After tough day, Faldo says Euros 'up in spirit'
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Europeans entered the first afternoon session of the 37th Ryder Cup hoping to stem the tide of a near-perfect red, white and blue storm that struck Friday morning in the alternate shot format at Valhalla Golf Club.
Nice thought. But it kept raining American birdies in torrents in Friday afternoon's fourball matches, so much so that when dusk settled, the energized United States roared to a commanding 5½-2½ lead after Day One.
That means Europe has an uphill battle on its hands if it is to win its fourth consecutive Cup. What's more it finds itself in the unusual position of playing catch up after it held the Day One lead in the last five tries, with four ending in European victories.
The United States jumped to a 3-1 lead after alternate shot and outscored the Europeans 2½-1½ in the Fourball. But if truth is told, the lead could have been a commanding 6 ½-1½ if the Americans had not handed the Europeans key half points in the fourth and final match of each session by failing to birdie the 547-yard, par-5 18th hole. European captain Nick Faldo took that cumulative point as a ray of sunshine amidst the storm.
"To claw back like that for those half points at the end of the day is a good sign,'' Faldo said. "We're down in points, but up in spirit.''
Then Faldo sounded the European party line when he said, "Let's face it the Americans got through day one with a performance that was about as good as it gets.''
It was the kind of performance that the Europeans are used to producing. And an argument could be made that the pre-match favorites weren't far off, considering they led in six of the eight matches only to watch the Americans stage rallies in the race to the finish line.
"That's all part of the Ryder Cup,'' Faldo said of the American heroics. "You never give in.''
The first day's result produced an unfamiliar feeling for England's Lee Westwood, who is competing in his sixth Ryder Cup. Friday marked the first time he found his team on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
"Now that's a novelty, isn't it?'' said Westwood, who was part of each of the European two-man teams that scratched out those halves in the fourth matches. "It's not the position we wanted to be in, that's for sure.
"I don't think we should get too disheartened. Basically what happened today was the Americans got off to a good start. We came in as the favorites and now they're the favorites. Now the pressure's on them. They don't want to start losing points in front of their crowd.''
There didn't seem to be any panic etched on any of the Europeans' faces. Matter of fact, they exuded confidence despite the three-point deficit, likely thinking they absorbed the Americans' best shot. That argument could be made considering the Americans made 30 birdies in the fourball, with each producing thunderous roars from the highly partisan crowd that has been encouraged to become the United States' 13th man this week.
"They had a day today like we've had over the last 10 years,'' Westwood said. "But I've seen some big swings in the Ryder Cup.''
It will be up to the Europeans to answer the challenge Saturday as eight more matches go to the post, four in alternate shot in the morning and four in fourball in the afternoon.
"Tomorrow will be a different day,'' Faldo said. "I'm sure my team will rally tomorrow.''
The morning rally will have to take place without Westwood or Spain's Sergio Garcia, who will sit down during the morning session of alternate shot. That will be a novelty too since the two European stalwarts have played in every match up to this point.
"We need some fresh legs out there tomorrow,'' Faldo said.
Ian Poulter, one of Faldo's captain's selections, is headed out for the third consecutive match with Justin Rose. They lost 1 up to Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell in alternate shot, coughing up a 3-up lead, but soundly defeated Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis, 4 and 2, in the fourball.
"That (victory) was huge for us, especially after the morning,'' Poulter said. "Let's hope all the guys get pumped up and we go out there tomorrow and puts some blue flags on the scoreboard.''