McDowell gets things going

Congleton Guardian: Rory McIlroy, left, and Graeme McDowell walk off the first tee at Medinah (AP) Rory McIlroy, left, and Graeme McDowell walk off the first tee at Medinah (AP)

The man who secured the winning point in the last Ryder Cup clearly felt the pressure of hitting the first shot in defence of the trophy at Medinah today.

Graeme McDowell's victory over Hunter Mahan sealed Europe's one-point win at Celtic Manor, where the former US Open champion had also claimed one-and-a-half points from three matches with Rory McIlroy. It was therefore no surprise to see the Northern Irish duo together again in the first foursomes match against Jim Furyk and rookie Brandt Snedeker.

In front of a packed grandstand, McDowell pulled his drive well left of the fairway and left McIlroy a tricky shot to the green partially obstructed by trees. However, the world number one was able to hit a high approach which found the fringe and saw McDowell redeem himself with an excellent chip to within inches of the hole to save par, with Furyk missing a birdie putt from 25ft.

It did not take long for the first potential flashpoint as Furyk questioned whether McDowell was entitled to a free drop away from a sprinkler head on the fringe of the second green.

After the referee walking with the match turned down Europe's request, a second opinion was called for but the initial decision was eventually upheld.

McDowell proceeded to hit a poor chip around six feet past the hole and when McIlroy missed, Snedeker holed out for par to give the American pair the lead.

Furyk missed a good chance to rub salt in the wound when he failed to convert a birdie putt from six feet on the third after McDowell had missed from longer range, but Europe soon also trailed in the second match.

Keegan Bradley holed from 25ft for birdie on the second to give himself and Mickelson the lead against Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, who were unbeaten in all four of their previous foursomes outings.

Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari briefly led when par was good enough to win the opening hole against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, but Dufner then holed from six feet for birdie on the second to get back on level terms.

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