x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Rose and Poulter lead recovery

Europe close the gap on America despite superb display from Furyk and Perry.

Justin Rose and Ian Poulter got Europe off to the perfect start in last night's foursomes as they beat the American pair of Stuart Cink and Chad Campbell 4 & 3.
Justin Rose and Ian Poulter got Europe off to the perfect start in last night's foursomes as they beat the American pair of Stuart Cink and Chad Campbell 4 & 3.

Ian Poulter and Justin Rose responded superbly to their European captain Nick Faldo's rallying call on the second day of the Ryder Cup, the two Englishmen coping impressively with an inadequate challenge from their American opponents Chad Campbell in the first of yesterday's foursomes. And at the end of the morning's play Europe were only two behind at 7-5.

A resounding 4 & 3 victory by Poulter and Rose reduced Europe's overnight deficit from three points to two, but their celebrations were muted in view of the tightness of the three matches behind them on a morning of wildly fluctuating fortunes with big leads being frittered away wherever you looked across the golf course. None more so than in the match between Phil Mickelson and his exciting young partner Anthony Kim against the Dubai-based Swede Henrik Stenson and the English debutant Oliver Wilson, who was making his debut after sitting out Friday's action.

The Americans, impressive on the opening day, swept into a four hole lead after only six holes, but amazingly were beaten 2 & 1 after Wilson hold an tremendous 30-footer on 17. That made the gap between the teams only a single point which remained the same after the third match finished. That was a tight affair from start to finish involving the in-form American pair of Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahon and the Spanish-Irish combination of Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell.

It appeared to have been settled in favour of the home team by a brilliant birdie putt on 17 by Leonard, who left the huge galleries in no doubt about its significance in the overall reckoning. But Europe responded defiantly on the last with McDowell holing a knee-trembling four footer to make it all square again. A fired up Poulter, who hit the pin with his approach to the first hole in a sign of the mood he was in, and an equally determined Rose could only do what was required of them, though, and how encouragingly they responded to the pressing need to put some blue figures on the scoreboard.

Helped by some sloppy play from Campbell and Cink, the English pair romped through the outward nine in spectacular fashion in four under par, compared with their rivals' abysmal score of four over, and turning for home they had their match virtually in the bag at five up. They tottered briefly on the verge of possible embarrassment as their advantage was whittled down to only two holes, but the two youngsters held their nerve to claim their second successive victory, having been their team's only winners on Friday.

Campbell and Cink had steadied their sinking ship on the way home to claw back three holes to seize the initiative but when Poulter holed from 10 feet for par at 14 to his undisguised ecstacy the momentum switched again. It transferred an enormous amount of pressure to Cink whose problems with the putter came back to haunt him as he crucially lipped out from two feet nearer than Poulter had been.

Cink's frustrating morning came to an almost predictable conclusion when his approach to the next found water, allowing Poulter to play into the heart of the green clinch a well-earned point. In the concluding foursomes the partnership of Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry exploded out of the stating blocks to claim a commanding four-hole lead. Heir opponents Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson did not buckle, however, and reduced their arrears to two holes. If they had not squandered excellent opportunites with the putter they too would have come down the homes stretch on level terms.

Instead, they lost 2 & 1 at the 17th to give America a two-point lead, as Harrington was informed that he would be rested for the fourballs. @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae