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Europeans dominate day one - lead 6-2

Not even America's 1-2 punch could stop Europe from what could shape up to be another Ryder Cup runaway.

Day One Features
Europeans dominate day one - lead 6-2
Europeans off to great start - lead 2.5-1.5
Tiger Woods and David Duval, the top two players in the world, were mere mortals Friday in the presence of a European team that put on a real exhibition by making clutch putts and seizing momentum with heroic shots that rocked The Country Club.

Led by Jesper Parnevik and his new sidekick, 19-year-old Sergio Garcia, Europe strutted off the course in fading sunlight with a 6-2 lead that left the U.S. team in a stupor.

The Americans have not won the Ryder Cup since 1993, and this wasn't the kind of start they had in mind. Even Mark James, the low-key captain for Europe, was surprised by the margin.

Tom Lehman
Garcia celebrates a chip in at the 14th

"This is good," he said. "This is a great start. We're all aware there's a long way to go. You get lopsided results when putts go your way."

But it wasn't just the putts.

Parnevik holed out from 141 yards on No. 8 and was 7 under over the first 10 holes of his best-ball match with Garcia. The youngest player in Ryder Cup history, Garcia contributed with an eagle of his own, pitching in from 50 yards short of the 14th green and bounding into Parnevik's arms for another bear hug.

The biggest grin from America came from Davis Love III, who make pressure-packed putts at the end of both his matches to earn a halve.

The only American victory in eight matches came from Hal Sutton and Jeff Maggert, two straight shooters who scored a 3 and 2 victory over Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke in the alternate-shot match Friday morning.

The shock came from who didn't win.

Woods and Duval failed to win a point. So did Phil Mickelson, who sported a 4-1-2 record in his past two Ryder Cups. James sent three of his seven rookies into the fray, and all of them contributed.

Woods, determined to avenge a 1-3-1 record in his first Ryder Cup two years ago at Valderrama, got little help from Tom Lehman when they fell to Parnevik-Garcia 2 and 1 in the morning match.

And he didn't get much help from Duval in the best-ball match that America figured to win hands down. Instead, they fell behind on the 17th hole when Clarke made a 5-foot birdie putt and neither Woods nor Duval gave themselves a decent chance at birdie.

The carnage was complete when Duval drove wildly off the tee, Woods bound a bunker on his approach to the green, and Westwood closed out a 1-up victory with a simple chip that was conceded for par.

"A huge first day," Westwood said.

The 6-2 lead is the largest for Europe after the first day since 1987 at Muirfield Village, the year it won on American soil for the first time. Another victory in America would be old hat these days.

The Europeans have won five of the past seven Ryder Cups, and in all but one of those victories, they built their lead in team matches, typically a strong suit.

"Those guys played tremendous," U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw said. "They kept holing out. That's what happens in match play. Our guys played well, but we need to see a few more putts go in. That's all I can tell you."

Perhaps he should tell that to Mickelson.

The player reputed to have one of the silkiest putting strokes on the PGA Tour missed one crucial putt after another in the opening day of matches.

Paired with Duval in alternate shot, Mickelson missed three putts inside 6 feet in a 3 and 2 loss to Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie. In the afternoon, he twice had a chance to tie a best-ball match, but Mickelson missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and an 8-foot putt on the final hole.

Crenshaw fell to his hands and knees after the final putt, looking like he was going to be sick. Mickelson didn't look much better.

"I needed to make those putts on 16 and 18, and I just didn't," he said. "And it's really disappointing."

The partisan crowd of 30,000 got into it early, chanting "U-S-A!" even as Mickelson and Duval walked off the first tee. But the eerie silence, save for some distinctive European cheers that are lower in tone and volume, followed shortly, and that was a bad harbinger for the Americans.

As a bright sun rose over the tree-lined Country Club, the Americans led all of the morning alternate-shot matches except one, the Sutton-Maggert duo, which turned out to be the only match they won.

Duval-Mickelson fell behind with bogeys on the 10th and 12th holes, and were doomed when Mickelson missed a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 14.

"The match certainly didn't seem like it should have been a 3 and 2 match," Duval said. "I really can't give you an explanation for that score."

That was a telling statement for his entire team. The Americans never seem to know what hits them until the day is over, their recollections filled with Europe making one putt after another.

Montgomerie has taken on the role of Europe's leader, and he lived up to the part with crucial putts that kept he and Lawrie in their alternate-shot match and got them back into the best-ball match with Love and Justin Leonard, which eventually was a halve.

"I've been putting very poorly up to this stage," Montgomerie said. "The Ryder Cup brings the best out of me, and I'm glad it does."

As Friday showed once again, the Ryder Cup brings out the best in Europe.


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