US take slender lead

2010-10-02 13:28

Newport -  The United States, boosted by rookie outsiders Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton, grabbed a slight advantage over Europe when the weather-delayed fourball matches were finally completed at the Ryder Cup on Saturday.

Watson and Jeff Overton wrapped up a 3&2 victory over Europe's big guns Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington as the Cup holders established an overall lead of 2-½ points to 1-½.

After the deluge of Friday it was a glorious, sun-splashed morning at Celtic Manor and Overton in particular was in fine form, reeling off four consecutive birdies from the ninth.

"His putter was hot this morning and I love him as a partner," Watson told reporters. "It's nice to have one point under our belt."

World number one Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker won a tight match against British duo Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher two up after Stricker was conceded a birdie putt at the par-five last.

Stewart Cink and rookie Matt Kuchar, who had been two up after 12 holes, finished all square against Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

McIlroy rolled in a curling 30-footer to birdie the par-three 17th and keep the match alive.

In front of huge crowds banked up and around the testing 18th, honours were shared with matching pars by McDowell and Kuchar.

"We could have snuck a win at the last but I think we probably would have taken a half on the 12th tee this morning," the 21-year-old McIlroy said. "I'm very happy with how we came out and had a positive attitude out there.

Europe drew first blood on Saturday morning when Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer beat Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson 3&2 in the top match.

Mickelson missed a seven-foot par putt on the 16th green to hand the Europeans victory after US PGA champion Kaymer had hit a superb bunker shot to within eight inches of the cup to guarantee Europe's par.

"It's always nice to get the first point on the board," Westwood said. "Captain Montgomerie sent us out first with that intention."

The golfers faced a marathon day on Saturday, though, after play was suspended for more than seven hours on Friday due to unplayable conditions.

Organisers of the biennial team competition have amended the format in a bid to make up for lost time after the first suspension of play since 1997.

A revamped second session on Saturday will feature six foursomes while a new extended third session will comprise two foursomes and four fourball encounters - both involving all 12 players.