Final-hole dramatics give U.S. early 1-point lead


Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley celebrate during their Day 1 fourball victory. (Getty)

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – With two stunning twists at the 18th hole the U.S. team took control of the Ryder Cup and will carry a 2 ½-to-1 ½-point advantage into the afternoon foursomes session.

Phil Mickelson calmly rolled in a 2-footer for birdie at the last to secure the morning’s rubber match, a 1-up victory over the heart of the European team, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, who had built a 2-up lead through 10 holes.

“We didn’t have our best stuff there. It was tough conditions and we were able to keep the match close. The eagle Keegan made at 16 was huge,” Mickelson said. “We were able to hang in there until the turn.”

Just moments earlier Jimmy Walker rolled in a 6-footer at the par-5 closing hole to scratch out a half point with Rickie Fowler after the American duo had trailed Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer for 17 holes.

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While momentum may have swung in the American’s favor with those late charges, it was a stunning 5-and-4 upset by the rookie tandem of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed over match play magician Ian Poulter and home favorite Stephen Gallacher that highlighted play on a blustery day at Gleneagles.

“It was very quiet around our group and that’s what we hoped to achieve and it’s nice to have a partner who makes everything,” Spieth said. “We convinced the captain we are a great best-ball team. It means a lot he has the trust in us.”

It was Poulter’s worst loss of his Ryder Cup career and the first time he failed to deliver a point since Day 1 at the 2010 matches.

While Gallacher looked nervous from his opening tee shot and Poulter was a shadow of his normal dominant self, the young American tandem combined for seven birdies through 14 holes and became the first rookie twosome to win a fourball match since the first Ryder Cup in 1927.

Europe’s only full point came from Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson who rolled over Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, 5 and 4.