LOUISVILLE, Kentucky // Europe got off to another fast start today as it began its bid to win the Ryder Cup for a fourth straight time. Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson birdied the first hole shortly after sunrise to go 1-up on the US team of Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim, then Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey quickly jumped ahead in their match when Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan bogeyed No 1.
Mickelson's opening tee shot was 27.42 metres past Harrington's, but Karlsson hit a brilliant iron to 1.83m. Kim's approach left Mickelson with about a 7.62m putt, but his birdie attempt slid just right of the hole. Harrington, winner of golf's last two major championships, calmly rolled in his birdie to take the hole. With the first shot of his Ryder Cup career, Mahan left the Americans with a mess at the opening hole when his approach veered off into a runoff area left of the green.
The Americans wound up taking bogey, while Stenson and Casey had an easy two-putt par to take an early lead. The other two alternate-shot matches of the morning session: Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell (US) vs Justin Rose and Ian Poulter (Europe); and home-state favourite Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk (US) vs Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia (Europe). Europe finds itself in the unprecedented role of favourite on US soil, which isn't too surprising in light of recent Ryder Cup history and the records of each 12-man team. The Americans have six Ryder rookies. Not one of their experienced players has a winning record in golf's greatest team event, the six of them coming in with a cumulative mark of 19 wins, 37 loss and 17 ties. Compare that with the Europeans, whose eight returnees have a combined record of 42-29-14. The Americans have not led after any session on any day at the Ryder Cup since winning at Brookline. And they have not led after the opening session of four matches since 1991 at Kiawah Island. Today and Tomorrow feature four matches of foursomes (alternate shot) and four matches of fourballs (better ball). The Ryder Cup concludes Sunday with 12 singles matches. Of the 28 points available, Europe only needs 14 to retain the cup. The Americans must win outright to reclaim it, and they'll have to do it without Tiger Woods. The No 1 player in the world is recovering from knee surgery.