Padraig Harrington gets the Ryder Cup underway
Irishman Padraig Harrington struck the first shot of the 37th Ryder Cup on Friday, splitting the fairway at the par-four opening hole to launch the morning foursomes matches under blue skies.
Three-times major champion Harrington partnered Swede Robert Karlsson for holders Europe while Phil Mickelson and rookie Anthony Kim led off for the United States in the first of four alternate shot encounters at Valhalla Golf Club.
The four players were given a rousing welcome by the fans packed around the first tee, chants of “USA, USA, USA” and “Ole, Ole, Ole” echoing across the course.
From the right side of the fairway, Karlsson then hit a superb approach to four foot and Harrington calmly rolled in the birdie putt to put the Europeans one up, Mickelson having missed a long-range effort to halve the hole.
Americans Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan take on Britain’s Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson of Sweden in the second match out before U.S. duo Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell face Britons Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.
Europe’s formidable duo of Spanish world number five Sergio Garcia and 12th-ranked Briton Lee Westwood play home-crowd favorite Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk in the fourth contest.
Kim, a double winner on the PGA Tour this year, was delighted to partner world number two Mickelson in the opening match.
“Obviously you learn a lot playing with a guy who has won 40 tournaments and whatever majors and all of the experience he has,” the 23-year-old told reporters.
“This is something that I dreamed about, playing in the Ryder Cup, and it’s finally coming true. We’ve got nothing to lose. We are going to go out there and freewheel it, have some fun and just do what we’ve been doing.
“Phil and I are very aggressive and we are going to shoot at a lot of flags and hopefully make a lot of putts.”
Left-hander Mickelson, a member of only one triumphant U.S. team in six Ryder Cup appearances, was excited to accept the challenge of leading off the U.S. team.
“The whole team is ready, anxious to play,” the 38-year-old said. “Anthony and I have been talking about this for some time, playing together.
“I love that we are able to get off in the first group and get out and hit the first shots because we’ve been wanting this day to come.”
Europe are bidding for an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory while the United States are seeking their first triumph since their come-from-behind success at Brookline in 1999.
The Americans have not won an opening session at the Ryder Cup since the 1991 matches at Kiawah Island.