Stricker and Cink set tone as U.S. charge 6-4 up

By Tony Jimenez

NEWPORT, Wales (Reuters) - Steve Stricker and Stewart Cink led the way as the United States opened up a 6-4 advantage over Europe after the second session of the 38th Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor on Saturday.

After winning the rain-delayed opening fourballs 2 1/2 - 1 1/2 in the morning, the holders took the afternoon foursomes 3 1/2 - 2 1/2 on a typical day of fluctuating fortunes in the biennial team event.

Strongman Stricker played the anchor role in his partnership with Tiger Woods, holing a series of long-range putts in their 4 and 3 win over Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Swede Peter Hanson.

"We are comfortable with one another and I think that's the biggest thing," Stricker told reporters. "Our game's complement each other nicely.

"I try to get him in the fairway, he hits some unbelievable iron shots and fortunately I've been knocking a couple of putts in."

World number one Woods was not quite at his best and left his bunker shot in the sand when he tried to escape from a greenside trap at the 10th.

"His stroke is so good, it's fun to watch," said Woods of his partner. "All you have to do is put him in position and he's got that go-in look.

"Even putts that don't go in, it's like, how did that miss?"

The victory by Stricker and Woods, who were unbeaten together in four encounters at last year's Presidents Cup, maintained their 100 percent record in this week's match.

It is also the first time Woods has won his opening two games in a Ryder Cup match.

Cink, who produced the day's best golf on Friday, turned his foursomes match around in stunning fashion when he rammed in a 30-foot putt at the 17th.


He and Matt Kuchar seemed to be up against it in their contest with Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell when U.S. Open champion McDowell arrowed a majestic tee shot to within six feet of the pin at the penultimate hole.

However, Cink's long birdie effort put the pressure back on McIlroy who then pulled his putt left of the hole.

McIlroy also made a mess of a close-range wedge at the water-guarded par-five 18th, finding sand with his approach while the Americans safely made the green in three to record a one-hole win.

U.S. pair Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan also beat Edoardo and Francesco Molinari two up while a last-hole birdie helped Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler escape with a half against Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.

Europe's two foursomes victories came from Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, who beat Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton 2 and 1, and Padraig Harrington and Ross Fisher, 3 and 2 victors over Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

The Molinaris became the first brothers to be paired together in the competition since Charles and Ernest Whitcombe in 1935.

The Italians took a long time to warm up and had to wait until the 11th hole to record a birdie.

Another one followed at the par-four 15th when Francesco drove the green but a matching birdie by the Americans, after another spectacular tee shot from Mahan, gave the brothers a mountain to climb over the closing holes.

Wildcard pick Harrington's victory alongside Fisher was the Irishman's first in a Ryder Cup since 2004.

"I just couldn't make any birdies in the fourballs but I think Monty (captain Colin Montgomerie) made a great decision when he gave me some responsibility today." said Harrington.

"He asked me to look after Ross, feeling like I have to do a bit more, and it worked well for me."

Donald's triumph maintained a perfect 100 percent career record for the Englishman in five foursomes matches at the team event.

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)