HAVING won their morning fourballs session without breaking sweat, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson had to raise their game in the afternoon foursomes. Against altogether tougher opponents in Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan, the two Europeans played better, more courageous golf to secure a 2&1 victory.
Johnson is not the most intimidating of American players, but only two in Tom Watson’s side have more experience of the Ryder Cup. He and Mahan demonstrated their strength by cancelling out Europe’s early lead and briefly threatening to turn the match on its head, but it was not enough in the end.
Although Stenson performed better than he had in the morning, it was Rose, once again, who played the decisive role. He was solid off the tee, sharp with his short game and, best of all, deadly with the putter, which helped Europe to secure six birdies, no small feat in the alternate-shot format.
The last of them came on the 17th hole when, for once, the Americans slipped up. Mahan was reckless with his putt, and Johnson failed to repair the damage, leaving Rose to seal the deal. “We were really strong today,” said the Englishman who had put in quite a shift.
He and the Swede had barely signed their card for the morning slaughter of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, when they were back on the course, continuing where they left off. Rose holed from ten feet on the first, and from about the same on the sixth to put Europe two up.
This time, though, they would not have everything their own way. As they sauntered down the seventh fairway, taking in the yawning backdrop of Glendevon beyond, Stenson’s approach looked set to keep them in good heart until it bounced off the bank and spun to the front of the green. After Rose was short with the putt, the referee got out a tape measure to decide who would go next. Johnson won that battle, and the hole, to halve the deficit. On the eighth, Stenson had a ten-foot putt to win the hole, but he raced it by, Rose missed the return and, suddenly, it was all square.
Here, then, was a test of the Europeans’ resolve, a challenge that had not materialised in the morning. Rose met it head on, firstly with a putt that lipped out on the tenth, then with one that disappeared into the soil on 11. If anything, the one that saved par, and a half, on the 12th was more valuable than the lot of them, as his celebration suggested. “I have to thank him for that,” said Stenson. “It was a nasty 12-footer for par. That was key.”
When they lost their lead on the short, par-4 14th, they quickly regained it on the 15th before wrapping things up on the penultimate hole. “We won 2&1 here in the afternoon, playing much better than we did when we won 5&4 in the morning,” said Stenson.
Despite his two wins yesterday, Rose did voice some frustration about the number of mobile phones being used by supporters on the opening day. “I thought the crowd were really, really good today, apart from phones,” he said.
“I’ve got to say, cameras and phones were pretty poor out there for what I would class as a very knowledgeable golf crowd. But otherwise it’s been a phenomenal day start to finish.”