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McIlroy, McDowell go to 18th to win Europe's first point
MEDINAH, Illinois |
MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - World number one Rory McIlroy and fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell had a three-hole lead disappear before rising at the 18th hole to win the first point for Europe at the Ryder Cup on Friday.
The duo, sent out first by Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal, snared a critical point from Americans Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker when McIlroy blasted out from a bunker to five feet and McDowell sank the par putt for a 1-up victory.
"It was a great game of golf, it really personified the Ryder Cup this morning," McDowell told reporters on the 18th green after sinking the putt that allowed Europe to finish the opening foursomes session tied 2-2.
"We played some great golf to be 3-up and two very gutsy players come back at us with a few birdies and we're playing these last two holes all square and having to hit some quality shots down the stretch."
A run of six birdies in seven holes from the fourth boosted the Europeans, who led by three holes through the 12th.
That streak was started by a chip-in by McIlroy from behind the green at the fourth that charged up the Europeans who felt wronged after Furyk had not allowed McDowell to take relief from a ball sitting close by a sprinkler head on the second hole.
The Americans, however, fought back and ran off a string of three successive birdies from the 14th to level the alternate-shot match.
At the 18th, Snedeker sent his drive way right among the oak trees and pantomimed snapping his driver in half at the tee. McIlroy's drive was also headed right but clipped a branch and dropped into light rough alongside a fairway bunker.
Furyk punched out through a tight lane to put the ball on the fairway and Snedeker stuck his approach shot about 15 feet from the cup.
McDowell's approach found a bunker below the green, but McIlroy put pressure on the U.S. by blasting out to five feet.
Furyk's right-to-left par putt broke away just inside the hole, making McDowell's putt good for a point in the European column.
"It was a great match," said 23-year-old McIlroy. "They came back at us. Unfortunately, Brandt didn't hit a very good tee shot there at the last and we were able to take advantage."
McDowell praised his playing partner.
"My job is easy. I'm playing alongside the greatest player on the planet right now," said the 2010 U.S. Open champion, who described McIlroy's sand shot as "phenomenal."
McIlroy returned the bouquet.
"If I had to choose anyone on either of these two sides to have to hole that putt to win at the last, it would have to be G-Mac," the number one said about McDowell, who clinched the winning putt in Europe's victory over the U.S. team two years ago in Wales.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)
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