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Associated Press, Published September 28 2012

Watson and Simpson lead US charge at Ryder Cup

MEDINAH, Ill. — Bubba Watson asked the Ryder Cup fans to make some noise, then went out and made sure they had plenty to cheer.

Watson and Webb Simpson were steamrolling through their fourball match, and the Americans were poised for a big win in the afternoon session Friday. After tying Europe 2-2 in foursomes, the U.S. had solid leads in three of the fourball matches and was square in the final one.

Watson and Simpson, who won the year's first two majors, sat out the morning session, and were raring to go when they strode onto the first tee for their match against Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson. Watson and his caddie waved their arms at the rowdy fans, urging them to take it up another notch, and after splitting the fairway with his drive, held up his driver as if to say, “Bring it.”

Did they ever.

Watson and Simpson birdied seven of their first eight holes, and their lone par — on No. 2 — was still good enough to win the hole. When Watson made putts from inside 8 feet for birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8, the question wasn't if they'd win, but whether they'd do it in record fashion. The record win in an 18-hole team match is 7 and 6, accomplished twice.

But Watson and Simpson halved the next two holes, and Lawrie made a 5-foot birdie on 11 to give the Europeans their first hole in the match.

Ryder Cup rookie Keegan Bradley showed no signs of slowing down after his big morning, making four birdies on the front nine to give him and Phil Mickelson a 3-up lead on Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Europe's top team. And Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar are rolling after a slow start, going up 3 after four straight birdies.

Only Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were struggling — again. The two began the day 6-0-2 in match play, but Woods put his first drive of the day into the gallery and they've never quite recovered. After falling 2 and 1 to Ian Poulter and Justin Rose in foursomes, their third straight loss in match play, they were scrambling to keep pace with Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts, Europe's only rookie.

Make that Colsaerts. He had all of the team's birdies, showing there's more to his game than his booming drives.

MORNING FOURSOMES RECAP

EUROPE 2, UNITED STATES 2

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Europe, def. Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker, United States, 1 up.

The Americans took an early lead with the first mini-controversy of the Ryder Cup. McDowell had to play a shot from just ahead of a sprinkler head, asked relief and was granted it, which would have allowed him to place it on the fringe and putt. Furyk objected, asked for a second opinion, and no relief was granted. Europe lost the hole with a bogey. Europe ran off four straight birdies, but won only two holes in a high-quality match. Europe went 2-up when Furyk called a penalty on himself at No. 10 because the ball moved slightly after he grounded his club. Europe was poised to go 4 up until McIlroy missed a 12-foot birdie, and then it switched. The Americans won three of the next four holes to square the match. Furyk's tee shot on the 15th was just short of the green, and McDowell drove into the water. On the 16th, Furyk hit is approach 2 feet to even the match. But on the 18th, Snedeker blocked his tee shot into the Woods and Furyk had to lay up. McIlroy hit a clutch shot from the front bunker to 5 feet, and McDowell holed the par putt to win the match. Europe had to work harder for the point than it would have expected.

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Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, United States, def. Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, Europe, 4 and 3.

Bradley quickly emerged as a rock star for this American team. He holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the second hole for an early lead, but the Americans needed to be at their best. Donald and Garcia were 4-0 in Ryder Cup foursomes, and they showed why by winning two straight holes. The match was all square after the turn after a massive tee shot by Bradley set up a wedge by Mickelson that he stuffed to a few feet. The turning point came at the 12th, when Donald nearly went into the water and missed a 7-foot putt on the 12th. Bradley hit to 15 feet and Mickelson made the birdie on the 13th, and the Americans won their third straight hole when Garcia missed a 3½-foot par putt on the 14th. Bradley wrapped up the match with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 15th.

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Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, United States, def. Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari, Europe, 3 and 2.

This is one match that lacked marquee value, though it might have been the most entertaining. Only three holes were halved on the front nine. Westwood was shaky with the putter, missing from short range on the sixth as the match went back to even. Dufner's birdie putt on the ninth paused at the lip of the cup before falling to win the hole and erase another European lead, and then the rookie made another birdie on the 10th for the Americans’ first lead of the match. They halved with pars the next four holes. On the 15th, which the tees moved forward, Westwood's tee shot missed badly to the right and went into the middle of the pond. Westwood then missed an 8-foot par putt on the 16th, and Johnson blasted out of a bunker to within 2 feet. Dufner made the short par for the win.

___

Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, Europe, def. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, United States, 2 and 1.

Woods and Stricker was a team once thought to be unbeatable, but that seems like years ago. Poulter and Rose took an early lead when Stricker hit into the water on the par-3 second hole, and after a bogey by Europe to lose that lead, Rose made a 45-foot birdie putt on the fourth. Woods was wild off the tee, including one shot that hit and bloodied a spectator. Even so, Europe only had a 1-up lead at the turn. The Americans gave up another hole at No. 11, and Woods missed a 6-foot par putt on the 12th as Europe went 3 up. Woods hit another wild tee shot on the 15th, but it caromed off a tree and rolled just short of the green, and Stricker chipped close for a birdie. Whatever hopes the Americans had of a rally ended on the 16th when Poulter, clutch as ever, holed a 7-foot par putt to remain 2 up. Rose chipped with a fairway metal from behind the 17th green to within inches for a conceded par. It was the third straight loss for the Woods-Stricker tandem (all in foursomes). Poulter improved to 9-3 in the Ryder Cup. Two of those losses had come to Woods.


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