The Europeans won three of the four morning four-ball matches to take a 3-1 lead heading into the afternoon foursomes.
'It was very surprising to me. I put up my best teams and they played very, very well,' said U.S. Captain Curtis Strange. 'Just the way it fell.'
Over 40,000 fans were present on a chilly, overcast morning at The Belfry. The crowds were boisterous and partisan, but respectful.
Its unbelievable, said Bernhard Langer. We (Colin Montgomerie and I) were talking going up the fairway that its the best crowds weve ever seen at any golf tournament.
Dane Thomas Bjorn and Northern Irelands Darren Clarke gave the home team an enormous boost by going out in the first match of the day and defeating world No. 1 Tiger Woods and Paul Azinger, 1-up.
Bjorn and Clarke combined to shoot a better-ball 10-under 62, while the Americans shot 63.
Spains Sergio Garcia and Englishman Lee Westwood teamed perfectly ' each complementing the other ' in routing David Duval and Davis Love III, 4-and-3.
They netted the first point of the Matches. Garcia made a pair of pars at the ninth and 10th holes to maintain a 1-up lead.
The 10th hole was a point of controversy earlier in the week, as European Captain Sam Torrance elected to have the hole played exclusively from the back tees, which made it far more difficult to attack the green with a drive on the short par-4.
Garcia was the only player of any in the morning matches to go for the green off the tee, but came up a few feet short, and in the water. Still he got up and down for a half.
I made some good putts at 9 and 10, and then Lee took over, Garcia said.
Westwood, who, due to his poor play the past two seasons, was a question mark at the start of the week, birdied 12, 13 and 15 to seal the victory.
Germanys Langer and Scotlands Montgomerie never trailed in beating Scott Hoch and Jim Furyk, 4-and-3.
The two, who now have a combined Ryder Cup record of 32-23-9, made numerous putts outside of 15 feet to coast to victory over the U.S. squad.
'It's important for us to get off to a good start and that's exactly what we've had,' Montgomerie said.
The Americans lone saving grace was the combo of Phil Mickelson and David Toms. Toms, the only rookie to go in the morning for the U.S., birdied the first two holes. They led 3-up with six to play, but held off a furious rally to defeat Irelands Padraig Harrington and Swedish rookie Niclas Fasth, 1-up.
Harrington had a putt to halve the match, but his 12-foot birdie lipped hard out of the hole.
Mickelson is still the lone U.S. team member with a winning four-ball record. He is now 4-2-1.
The U.S. hasnt had the lead after the Day-1 morning session since 1991 at Kiawah Island.
Awarded the stomach-churning task of hitting the first shot of the 34th Matches, Azinger chose the wrong club off the first tee. He made the switch, but pushed his drive well right.
It proved to be one of only a few mistakes by any of the players in the foursome.
The morning sessions most anticipated match was easily the most compelling. Both teams made four birdies in the first five holes to keep the match all square.
Woods made a 20-footer for birdie at the par-4 eighth to give his team their first lead of the match, but Bjorn responded by sinking an 18-footer for birdie at 10, and a 25-footer for birdie at the 12th.
Trailing 1-down, both Woods and Azinger peppered the flag at the par-4 13th. Clarke, however, made his fifth birdie of the day by draining a 20-footer to essentially halve the hole.
The next two holes were halved. Bjorn then ran his approach shot at the par-4 16th to within two feet of the hole. He tapped in for the birdie, his fifth of the day, to go dormie.
Woods kept his team alive by drilling a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th, directing a fist pump towards the hole as the ball tumbled in.
Azinger then responded by hitting his approach shot at the last to a foot.
But as had been the case the entire round, the Europeans were slightly better with the putter. Bjorn poured in a 20-footer for the victory, leaping in the air and embracing his partner.
It was just our day, said Bjorn. We mix very well together.
Woods career Ryder Cup record dropped to 3-7-1, while Azinger fell to a career 1-5-1 in the four-ball format.
Clarke is now 3-1-0 in four-balls, while Bjorn is 2-0-0.
'I'm surprised. I still don't believe that they're better in best-ball,' said Strange. 'And historically it shows that, but I'm sorry, you've not convinced me.'
The Americans, who entered the morning matches 7-22-5 as a 12-man team in four-balls, compared to 16-13-6 for the Europeans, are better in foursomes, with a combined 15-13-3 mark.
Thats the good news.
The bad news for the U.S. is that the European team has a combined 23-13-3 record in alternate shot.
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches