Medinah, IL – The United States went 3-1 in Friday afternoon's four-ball session to lead 5-3 after the opening day of the Ryder Cup.
The lone European win Friday afternoon came thanks to rookie and captain's pick, Nicolas Colsaerts. He made eight birdies and an eagle to carry Lee Westwood to victory against the best American team, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, 1-up.
Woods, who played poorly in the foursomes, but well in the four-balls, and Stricker are 0-2 this Ryder Cup.
The U.S. jumped out early with some awesome play by Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. The reigning Masters and U.S. Open champions trounced Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson, 5 & 4.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley have been the stars of the U.S. side. They are 2-0 and bested the top European team, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, 2 & 1 in the four-balls.
The other American point came from Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson, who handled Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer, 3 & 2.
"Everybody played real well and hung in there and had a lot of fun," said U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. "Seemed like as the sun came out, we just got better and better."
After the morning foursomes left the two sides tied 2-2, the Americans pounced early with the two decisive victories in the first two four-ball matches.
Johnson and Kuchar closed out their match and the only one left featured Colsaerts and Westwood versus Woods and Stricker.
The Europeans, and more specifically Colsaerts, built a 2-up lead with three holes to play. Woods drained a 20-foot birdie putt at the 16th to win the hole. He pointed to the gallery, the next tee and flipped his putter at the bag, ready for the par-3 17th.
Stricker came up woefully short in the water at 17, but Woods knocked his tee ball to three feet. Colsaerts hit his to 30 feet and Westwood was in fairly close, just outside Woods' ball.
Colsaerts did it to the Americans again.
He ran home his long birdie putt to derail the U.S. team's chances of squaring the match. Woods tapped in his short birdie putt to halve the hole and move to 18, 1-down.
Woods and Stricker were in the fairway at 18, as was Colsaerts. Westwood also found the short grass on the right, but got there via a lucky bounce off the trees on the left.
Westwood and Stricker missed the green with their approaches. Colsaerts got on safely, but was far from the stick. Woods hit yet another great iron, this time 15 feet right of the hole.
Colsaerts made par for his team, then Stricker tried to hole his chip for birdie and a halve. He came up short and the stage was Woods'.
If his putt fell, he and Stricker would get and a halve and the U.S. would have a 3-point lead.
Woods' birdie putt slid narrowly by the hole and the Europeans got the full point.
"Nicolas probably had one of the greatest putting rounds I've ever seen," said Woods. "We had a chance to go all square on the last hole, and I missed it. I didn't play very good this morning at all. But I hit it good this afternoon. I drove it great this afternoon and was in position, but we ran into a guy who just made absolutely everything."
"It was a lot of fun," Colsaerts said. "I've never had so much fun and I want to have more."
Despite the strong showing by the Americans, it's only a 2-point lead and there is a lot of golf to be played.
But late on this Friday, the U.S. got off to a great start.
Watson got the afternoon session going when he implored the crowd to cheer louder. He even hit his opening drive with the American crowd roaring, then his partner gave them something to really get loud about.
The U.S. Open champion won three of the first four holes, then, after a par and halved hole at five, Watson won the next three holes with birdie.
A halve on 14 was enough to give the U.S. a resounding victory.
This American duo went 3-1 in last year's Presidents Cup and Friday, Watson and Simpson continued their spectacular team play.
"We were good friends before the Presidents Cup, and we went into it wanting to get to know each other better, and we just played great," said Simpson, who teamed with Watson to go 8-under through the first 10 holes.
Mickelson and Bradley, winners in the morning foursomes against the previously undefeated Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, followed the same formula as the match ahead of them.
The Americans won the first three holes with birdies and were 4-up by the eighth. McDowell was conceded birdie at the ninth, then, after four straight halves, McIlroy nearly made eagle at 14, but was conceded a winning birdie.
Both sides birdied the 15th and parred the 16th so the U.S. was 2-up with two to play and assured at least a half-point.
Mickelson made sure they got the full point.
At the par-3 17th, Mickelson stuffed his tee shot to two feet. With the galleries screaming, the Europeans saw how close his tee shot was and gave Mickelson the birdie and the Americans a win.
"It's awesome, and right here on the 17th, it was incredible," said Mickelson. "We played so well, all day. We've had so much fun, and it's what has brought our best golf out, and to close it out with that shot, it feels really obviously spectacular."
The Mickelson/Bradley pairing was no surprise from Love, but Bradley helped his friend to his first two-win day in nine Ryder Cups.
"It could be the best day of my life," said Bradley. "I'm just having such a blast playing with Phil. That was the best shot I've ever seen in my entire life. I'm just happy to be a part of it."
Rose jumped out early with a win at one, then the American pair took four of the next six holes. They were comfortably ahead throughout as Kaymer struggled.
The U.S. lead was 2-up and Johnson made it 3-up with a birdie at the 15th. Two pars at 16 gave the Americans another full point.
In the morning, McIlroy and McDowell beat Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker, 1-up. Mickelson and Bradley topped Donald and Garcia, 4 & 3. Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson bested Westwood and Francesco Molinari, 3 & 2, and Woods and Stricker lost to Rose and Ian Poulter, 2 & 1.
NOTES: All 24 players played on Friday...The five rookies on both teams went 5-1...The format is the same for Saturday with four foursomes matches in the morning and four four-ball matches in the afternoon...There are 12 singles matches scheduled for Sunday...The U.S. needs to get to 14 1/2 points to win...Europe only needs 14 to keep the Cup.