Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson were hoping for a few more fist-bumps. (Photo: Getty Images)

Notebook: Americans are down, but not like last time

Though down by two points, the United States remains in good position. Plus, Tiger Woods' day started out wet and ended up wetter, and Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco were oh-so-close to a very good day.

September 22, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Compared with two years ago at Oakland Hills, when the Americans already were five points behind after the opening day, there was no reason for the U.S. team to panic Friday night as they ended Day One down by only 5-3. But even so, it looked for the longest time as though they would be tied at worst, and instead they found themselves in a familiar spot.

It was the fifth straight Ryder Cup that Europe has led after the first day.

"It's a pretty fine line between no points, a half-point and one point," Captain Tom Lehman said. "We didn't get much going our way."

Seven of the eight matches -- including all four alternate-shot games in the afternoon -- went all 18 holes, and no team ever had more than a 3-up lead. It was the first time since 1969 that an entire session went the distance.

"There were a lot of tight matches," Lehman said. "We didn't make a lot of putts. But it's still anybody's ball game. I don't feel too concerned, but we're a little bit frustrated."

DUO IN DISTRESS: Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco were unbeaten in the Presidents Cup last year, but they failed to win either of their matches on Friday. Darren Clarke's birdie on the 18th secured a 1-up victory for him and Lee Westwood in the morning, and the Americans lost a 1-up lead in their alternate-shot match against Westwood and Colin Montgomerie in the afternoon.

Westwood was already on the green, some 80 feet away, when DiMarco put his second shot in the bunker. Mickelson blasted out to 10 feet, but DiMarco missed the birdie putt moments before Montgomerie made his to earn a half.

WET AND WETTER: Tiger Woods started and ended his day with a ball in the water.

His opening tee shot in the morning fourball might have been his worst of the year, a snap-hook into a creek that shouldn't come into play. It didn't matter because he had Jim Furyk at his side, a partnership that showed its value in a 1-up morning victory over Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington.

But it wasn't enough in the afternoon against Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, a formidable pair in foursomes. They improved to 3-0 in alternate shot and never trailed in their afternoon match against Woods and Furyk.

"It's always nice beating Tiger," Garcia said.

Woods has a 12-0 lead on Garcia in the majors, but the 26-year-old Spaniard puts on a cape at the Ryder Cup. Garcia is now 12-3-2 in the Ryder Cup, compared with Woods' 8-12-2 record.

With the match all square, Garcia stuffed his wedge into 2 feet on the par-5 16th, while Woods hit wedge into 15 feet. Furyk made the birdie putt to halve the hole, but they weren't as lucky on the next hole. Garcia again hit his approach from the first cut into 3 feet, and Woods hit a good shot to 15 feet below the cup. Furyk missed that one, and they fell behind.

Their hopes ended when Furyk went into the water after Woods' drive on the 18th.

The good news for Woods is that he won his first opening-day match since 1997. And this Ryder Cup, every point matters.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press and PA Sport. All rights reserved.

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