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Valhalla, Kentucky: Ryder Cup 2008 (37th Europe v USA battle)


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8.40pm The opening ceremony, which gets underway in about 20 minutes, will see the beginning of the end of the Ryder Cup 'phoney war'.


Among other things, the pairings for tomorrow's opening foursomes matches are set to be announced (at around 10pm Irish time).


Before that, the final shots in the players and WAGs fashion battle should prove as interesting as ever......


Later, we'll also be taking a look at the match-ups for tomorrow's foursomes and trying to figure the strategies and thinking behind the choices of captains Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo.


Ryder Cup final practice photos



The Valhalla ground staff place a new pin on the green of a sumptuous-looking 18th hole ahead of final practice on Thursday



Under glorious morning sunshine and clear blue skies in Kentucky, an early scattering of spectators gather at the Valhalla driving range



Kentucky native Kenny Perry greets the masses who have gathered at the course for the final practice round before the 37th Ryder Cup



The selection of Ian Poulter has divided opinion and the Englishman enjoys the indifferent response granted him by the autograph hunters



Muhammad Ali returns to his place of birth - Louisville, Kentucky - and takes a ride with Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan and Anthony Kim



The former three-time world heavyweight boxing champion may be supporting the US but has time to meet and greet the European team



Valhalla is a big-hitter's paradise and Boo Weekley tries every trick in the book to keep his ball rolling after teeing off on the 13th



The US team, bidding to win their first Ryder Cup since 1999, put the finishing touches to their preparations on the driving range



Europe captain Nick Faldo is in no mood for joking with the start of his side's trophy defence less than 24 hours away



A bridge over troubled water? Europe's Miguel Angel Jimenez looks in relaxed mood ahead of his third Ryder Cup outing



Justin Rose may be one of four rookies in the European team but he won last year's Order of Merit and looks in fine form



Justin Leonard, the 1997 Open winner, has claimed just 2.5 points from eight Ryder Cup matches and is still looking for his first victory

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The United States will take a 5½-2½ lead into day two of the 37th Ryder Cup after dom


The United States will take a 5½-2½ lead into day two of the 37th Ryder Cup after dominating defending champions Europe on the opening day in Valhalla.


Leading 3-1 after the foursomes, Paul Azinger's side won two of the four afternoon fourball matches.


Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard had two wins while Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim claimed a win and a half despite being behind in their two matches.


Ian Poulter and Justin Rose's fourball triumph was Europe's only victory.


However, as the opening day drew to a close, Lee Westwood and Denmark's Soren Hansen did give Europe a lift with a hard-earned half against JB Holmes and Boo Weekley after winning the final hole.


It was a day where some of Europe's big guns failed to shine, Spaniard Sergio Garcia and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington claiming just a half each from their two matches.


Nick Faldo's team must now quickly regroup after a day which saw them squander leading positions in both sessions.


"We played hard and gave 100%," said Faldo. "We are down in points but fortunately, thanks to Soren and Lee, we are really up in spirits."


The United States, without injured world number one Tiger Woods and regarded as underdogs before the event, are now in a strong position to claim their first Ryder Cup victory since Brookline in 1999.


"Clearly we haven't led in a long time so we're real happy about that. I was just real proud of everybody," said Azinger.


"It could have gone either way today. There were some nice comebacks. Everybody kind of stayed on point, stayed in the present and just kept going."


If anything symbolised the home side's opening-day performance it was the miraculous recoveries from Mickelson and Kim, who rescued 1½ points from seemingly impossible positions.


In the morning they were three down against Harrington and Swede Robert Karlsson but rescued a half at the last, and they again looked doomed in the afternoon against Harrington and Ryder Cup debutant Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland.


Harrington and McDowell were 3 up after four holes but they could not hang on, Mickelson winning the 5th, 9th and 13th before Kim's birdie at the 14th put the American duo ahead for the first time.


The nerveless McDowell won the 15th but when Mickelson drained a 30-footer from the front of the 17th green the game was up, and Kim's birdie at the last sealed the 2up victory.


"We played with a lot of heart and emotion," said Mickelson. "We were down in both matches and came back to win one and tied the other. It's been a good day for the US."


Azinger retained the partnership of Leonard and Mahan after they had come from two down to defeat Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson in the morning foursomes.


The move paid off as the pair never looked back after taking the lead at the first against the out-of-sorts Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez.


The Spanish duo could only win two holes all afternoon and Leonard sealed the 4&3 win with a stunning chip from the fringe of the 15th green.


Rose and controversial wildcard pick Poulter were kept together in the afternoon despite surrendering a three-shot lead to Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell in the morning foursomes and they ended up being Europe's only bright spots on a disappointing day.


They produced a dominant display against debutants Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis, Poulter's lengthy birdie putt at 14 putting the Europeans 3 up.


And another birdie from Poulter at the 16th completed a 4&2 victory.


"We got off to a great start in the foursomes but couldn't continue it, however, we played awesome golf this afternoon," he said. "It's nice to go out there and get a point back."


Westwood and Garcia had somehow won a half in their fourballs clash with Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry despite being two down with two to play, and Westwood produced another late show with Hansen in the afternoon.


Westwood birdied three of the first five holes to put the duo 2 up but Weekley and the big-hitting Holmes got the crowd going with a spirited recovery, going 1 up at the 12th.


Hansen kept the European pair in the match by chipping in from the fringe of the 16th green and although Weekley and Holmes were still one ahead as they reached the final tee, they allowed Europe to sneak a half when they both found the water with their drives.


"You would expect to gain a half if you birdie your final three holes," said Westwood.




Match score: United States 5½-2½ Europe


Morning foursomes results:


Mickelson/Kim halved Harrington/Karlsson

Leonard/Mahan beat Stenson/Casey 4&2

Cink/Campbell beat Rose/Poulter 1 up

Perry/Furyk halved Westwood/Garcia


Afternoon fourballs results:


Mickelson/Kim beat Harrington/McDowell 1 up

Stricker/Curtis lost to Poulter/Rose 4&2

Leonard/Mahan beat Garcia/Jimenez 4&3

Holmes/Weekley halved Westwood/Hansen



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Europe's Padraig Harrington hits the first shot of the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla, Louisville, Kentucky



Phil Mickelson tees off for the US, but he and Anthony Kim are soon one down to Harrington and Robert Karlsson



A contingent of Irish fans dressed as leprechauns follow Harrington and Karlsson around the course but see them fall back to level after 8



Harrington, playing with a sore neck, and Karlsson go 3 up after 12 holes as Mickelson and Kim throw away several good chances



Weekley proves a big hit with the home fans shouting "Booooo' every time he drives the ball or makes a putt



Mickelson is the inspiration as he and Kim seal the win to extend the hosts' overall lead



Westwood is congratulated by George Bush Snr after he and Soren Hansen snatch a half against Boo Weekley and JB Holmes



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Europe launch Ryder Cup fightback



Wilson and Stenson defied the odds to claim a point for Europe in Kentucky


Henrik Stenson and Ryder Cup debutant Oliver Wilson produced a stunning comeback as Europe reduced the deficit to 7-5 against the United States.


The pair were four down after six holes against Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim but hit back to claim a vital 2&1 win.


Justin Rose and Ian Poulter thrashed Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell 4&3 while Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell managed to claim a half.


Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk were the only US pair to win in Saturday's foursomes.


The American duo won the first hole against three-time major winner Padraig Harrington and Swede Robert Karlsson and they never looked back, finishing up 3&1 victors.


But overall it was a good morning for the Europeans, who went into the second day's foursomes 5½-2½ behind following a spirited opening from the home side in Valhalla.


But they had to do it without two star players after skipper Nick Faldo decided to rest Lee Westwood because of blisters and Sergio Garcia, who was feeling fatigued following an illness last week.


But it was a move that paid off as the defending champions reduced the American lead in Valhalla.


"It was a much better morning," said Faldo, who is hoping to lead Europe to their fourth straight Ryder Cup victory. "The United States had their day but we are here in good spirits.


"We had some fresh legs out there. This is a physical and mental battle and I believe with what we have seen that you need to give guys a rest.


"We came off the road a bit and now we're back on it."


Wilson had missed all of Friday's play and he was thrown into the action with Stenson against the stellar duo of world number two Mickelson and rising star Kim.


The American pairing won a point and a half in their two matches on Friday and looked as if they would secure another point as they got off to a flying start.


But they crumbled from the 6th, going five over in their closing 11 holes.


The Europeans went in front for the first time at the 15th when Mickelson pushed his drive into the trees and Kim fired the approach into the water.


And Wilson sealed the point in some style, draining a 20-foot birdie putt at the 17th.


"We stayed patient on the front nine but it did not go our way," said Wilson. "And when it did we tried to put the pressure on."


In the first game of the day, Poulter and Rose continued their winning partnership to make up for their collapse to the same opponents in Friday's foursomes.



Mickelson and Kim struggled after a fine start to their foursomes match


Poulter and Rose made a fine start, going 5 up after seven holes as their opponents struggled to find any kind of form.


But they let their lead slip - Cink and Campbell reducing the lead to two at the 13th.


Poulter restored order with a 15ft par putt at the 14th to win the hole and when Cink found water at the next, the match was as good as over, the Americans conceding when Poulter's approach landed 12ft from the hole.


"There was a lot of unfinished business from Friday," said Poulter. "We feel that this is a strong partnership in the foursomes and today was flawless golf."


Jimenez and McDowell were 2 up after seven in their match against the in-form pairing of Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard.


But the American duo, who had won both of their matches on Friday, fought back and they went 1 up when Leonard sunk a long putt to win the 17th.


However, they could do no better than a closing par and Jimenez splashed out of a greenside bunker to four feet, from where his partner made no mistake.


Europe, who need 14 points to retain the trophy, will hope to further reduce the deficit in the afternoon fourballs while the hosts will seek to take a lead into Sunday's singles.




Saturday's foursomes results:


Cink/Campbell lost to Poulter/Rose 4&3

Leonard/Mahan halved with Jimenez/McDowell

Mickelson/Kim lost to Stenson/Wilson 2&1

Furyk/Perry beat Harrington/Karlsson 3&1



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US lead Europe after dramatic day




The United States will take a 9-7 lead into the Ryder Cup singles after a thrilling second day at Valhalla.


Holders Europe were 5½-2½ down going into Saturday's foursomes but hit back to reduce the deficit to two points.


Three of the four fourball matches went to the 18th as both sides battled to claim two points each.


Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell claimed a vital win for Europe while Boo Weekley and JB Holmes defeated Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen at the 17th.


The final day is now intriguingly poised with Europe needing seven points from Sunday's singles to claim their fourth straight Ryder Cup triumph while the US need 5½ points for victory.


"It was an incredible day," said European skipper Nick Faldo. "It was classic Ryder Cup stuff, the Americans had their day on Friday and we had ours today."


American counterpart Paul Azinger meanwhile was satisfied with the cushion his side takes into the final day, as they chase their first victory since 1999.


"We took some blows today, they played great and we only lost one point," he said. "We're happy about that.


"The golf has been incredible, my stomach is just churning."


Europe's performance will give Faldo plenty of satisfaction especially as he rested Sergio Garcia and Westwood in the morning and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington in the afternoon fourballs.


And he will feel especially vindicated after Poulter, his much-criticised wildcard pick, headed Europe's charge on day two.


After teaming up with Justin Rose to defeat Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell in the foursomes, Poulter then paired up with Northern Ireland's impressive debutant McDowell in the fourballs.


The European duo were never behind against Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk but McDowell had to sink two nervy putts at 15 and 16 to keep them one in front.




Poulter then converted a 14-footer for birdie to halve the 17th before knocking in a decisive three-footer to guarantee the half that won the match at the last after Furyk had holed from nine feet to keep the match alive.


"Sinking that putt at the last was a special moment," said Poulter. "What a day - G-Mac played awesome. I was struggling at times, but managed to hang in there and came up with a couple of birdies.


"To play as well as I have played I'm speechless. I am so proud to be here as one of Nick's picks. I felt I had to do something this week."


The United States drew first blood in the afternoon, Boo Weekley and JB Holmes edging Westwood and Dane Hansen 2&1.


The same pairings halved the Friday fourballs with Westwood criticising Weekley for his role in whipping up the crowd, but there was little controversy this time as the American duo seemed to tone down their behaviour.


Victory was sealed when Westwood and Hansen both missed birdie putts at 17, the result ending Westwood's impressive unbeaten run in the competition.


On Friday, Westwood tied Arnold Palmer's record of 12 consecutive Ryder Cup matches without defeat - his last loss coming in 2002.


England's Paul Casey and Garcia of Spain had a tense battle with 2003 Open winner Ben Curtis and Steve Stricker - with the quartet halving 16 of the 18 holes.


Unsurprisingly the match went to the last and when Stricker and Curtis, who struggled in their partnership on the opening day, found the rough with their approach Europe were favourites to sneak a point.


But Stricker secured a fine up and down with an 18-foot birdie putt and the out-of-sorts Casey held his nerve to sink a 10 footer which gave Europe a half in a match in which they never led.


"One of those putts had to go in, I felt I was letting down my partner," said Casey. "Sergio and I made a great team, he played stellar golf and the least I could do was roll that putt in there.


"They played really well and never gave us anything. We would have wanted a full point but we did well to get a half from a fantastic match."


Sweden's Robert Karlsson hit four birdies in the closing seven holes to secure a half with compatriot Henrik Stenson in their match with Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan.


Mickelson, who with Anthony Kim had let slip a four hole lead to lose to Stenson and debutant Oliver Wilson in the morning foursomes, carded three birdies and an eagle to put the American duo 2 up.


But Karlsson led the fightback and with the light fading, he equalled Mahan's birdie to make the score 9-7.


"There was so much going on, you want to make it so bad, you don't want to force it," said Mahan. "I don't think I hit it quite firm enough but it got a four and made them at least get a four."






Saturday's fourballs results:


Weekley/Holmes beat Westwood/Hansen2&1

Curtis/Stricker halved Garcia/Casey

Perry/Furyk lose to Poulter/McDowell 1 up

Mickelson/Mahan halved Stenson/Karlsson


Saturday's foursomes results:


Cink/Campbell lost to Poulter/Rose 4&3

Leonard/Mahan halved Jimenez/McDowell

Mickelson/Kim lost to Stenson/Wilson 2&1

Furyk/Perry beat Harrington/Karlsson 3&1



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Draw for Sunday's Ryder Cup singles (US players first):


1703 Anthony Kim v Sergio Garcia


1714 Hunter Mahan v Paul Casey


1725 Justin Leonard v Robert Karlsson


1736 Phil Mickelson v Justin Rose


1747 Kenny Perry v Henrik Stenson


1758 Boo Weekley v Oliver Wilson


1809 JB Holmes v Soren Hansen


1820 Jim Furyk v Miguel Angel Jimenez


1831 Stewart Cink v Graeme McDowell


1842 Steve Stricker v Ian Poulter


1853 Ben Curtis v Lee Westwood


1904 Chad Campbell v Padraig Harrington

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