With Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood reduced to the role of spectators, the Europeans tried to cut into a commanding U.S. lead on day two of the Ryder Cup.
|Oliver Wilson the Ryder Cup rookie gives Nick Faldo 'fresh legs' [GALLO/GETTY]
The Americans led 5½-2½ after opening day, leading Euro captain Nick Faldo to the curious decision to rest the two longest-serving members of his team.
Westwood had appeared in 27 straight matches, Garcia in 22.
"It's a brutal week mentally and physically,'' Faldo said shortly after the first match teed off.
"I thought fresh legs today were important.''
Europe's dynamic duo
A familiar duo tried to rally the Europeans under cloudy skies at Valhalla Golf Club.
Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, the only Euro pairing to go out in each of the first three sessions, built a commanding 5-up lead on Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell as they made the turn.
Cink had already lost two balls, burying his tee shot in a hazard at No. 2 and chunking one in the water at No. 7.
But the Americans were leading two other matches: Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry 3-up on Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson through six holes; Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim 2-up on Henrik Stenson and Oliver Wilson after eight holes.
Wilson, an obscure Englishman, was making his Ryder Cup debut after being the only player on either team to sit out both sessions Friday.
The most competitive match of the morning was the second one out.
Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell were 1-up at the turn on Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan, who won two matches for the Americans on Friday.
The Americans hadn't led after any session since last winning the Ryder Cup with the "Miracle at Brookline" in 1999.
But, even with Tiger Woods on the mend from knee surgery, they lost only one of the first eight matches and prompted Faldo to shake things up.
Garcia watched from the morning matches from a cart.
"Sergio needed his rest,'' Faldo said. "It's as simple as that.''
Westwood also sat out, despite two halves on Friday that stretched his unbeaten streak to 12 straight matches, tying Arnold Palmer for the longest in Ryder Cup history.
Both Garcia and Westwood were expected to return for the afternoon best-ball matches.
Europe has won the last three Ryder Cups and five of the past six, but the defending champions found themselves in a major hole after day one.
The Americans rallied from a back-nine deficit four times to take a three-point lead, their largest margin after the opening day since continental Europe first was included in the Ryder Cup in 1979.
Mickelson and Kim twice came back from 3-down deficits and picked up 1½ points, as many as Lefty earned in the last two Ryder Cups combined.
Leonard had never won a match in any Ryder Cup until two blowout victories with
Mahan, one of six U.S. rookies who played like recent European dominance really was ancient history.
Azinger in charge
|USA team captain Paul Azinger pulled the right strings on day one [GALLO/GETTY]
"We're in a good place,'' U.S. captain Paul Azinger said.
"Who would have thought?''
Azinger seemed to make all the right moves.
First, after deciding he was good with a half-dozen rookies on his 12-man team, he got them all on the course the first day.
The newcomers justified his faith by going 3-2-3, surely better than anyone expected in the pressure cooker of golf's grandest team event.
In all, the newcomers had a hand in four of the 5½ points won by the Americans.
The only ones who didn't earn a point were Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis, beaten by Poulter and Rose in the Americans' lone outright loss Friday.
"We're all good players or we wouldn't be here,'' said Boo Weekley, who teamed with fellow rookie J.B. Holmes to earn a half-point Friday.
"It's fun to be able to have all the rookies that are here playing. It's good to let us get out and see what we can do.''