LOUISVILLE--Playing from behind in the Ryder Cup has been the American way of life in the matches of late, but at Valhalla, it was the Euros' turn. Captain Nick Faldo picked an odd way to do it. Having fallen behind by three points on the opening day, the Euros needed to close the gap, if possible, but certainly not allow it to grow any larger. Already under the microscope for his controversial captain's picks, Faldo elected to sit two of his finest players, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, in the morning. After all, if the Europeans were considered the better of the two teams coming into the matches, why not lean on that depth? And his team responded.
Ian Poulter, the captain's pick who raised the most eyebrows, has also turned out to be Faldo's most reliable and emotional player. The Brits, Poulter and Justin Rose, went out first, assigned the task of reclaiming the momentum. They did exactly that, grabbing a 5-up lead after just seven holes and putting away Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell easily, 4 and 3.
The Americans seemed to be answering the challenge in the last two matches with the team of Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim and the pair of Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry both getting 4-up leads on the front. But Mickelson and Kim, full of high-fives and fist pumps on Friday, performed for the rest of the match like a booster rocket that had run out of fuel. From the seventh hole on, they couldn't keep the ball in play and lost, 2 and 1, to Henrik Stenson and Oliver Wilson, the only player on either side who didn't compete the first day.
Captain Paul Azinger's unbeaten U.S. team of Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard won the 17th to go 1 up but then lost the 18th to halve Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell, but Furyk and Perry managed to hold their point against Robert Karlsson and Padraig Harrington, 3 and 1.
By lunch, the Europeans had closed the gap by a point, 7-5, and given Captain Faldo the luxury of putting out a rested Westwood and Garcia in the afternoon to try to close it even further.