|Cink made a series of birdies to inspire the US to a narrow lead on the first day [AFP]|
The United States made the most of a seven-hour rain delay to seize a narrow lead on the first day of the Ryder Cup at a waterlogged Celtic Manor in South Wales.
The Americans ended a frustrating Friday for the players and fans ahead in two of the four unfinished fourball matches, while Europe lead in one and the other was tied.
“It was a tough day at the start and I was obviously pleased with the way the US team came back and performed this afternoon,” Corey Pavin, the US skipper, said.
“I was very proud of the guys.”
The Americans had trailed in three of the four games when play was suspended in driving rain during the morning.
But Stewart Cink sparked a stirring fightback on the resumption, holing a series of lengthy putts as he and rookie Matt Kuchar went two up on Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell after 11 holes.
The US duo had trailed by one after four but Cink, who put away a 40-footer at the par-three third, rolled in further birdie putts from 60 feet at the fifth, 25 feet at the seventh and 10 feet at the 10th.
“He made some nice putts and just got it going,” Pavin said. “That’s how you do well in the Ryder Cup is you make putts. Maybe it will spread to the other guys, too.”
“When your ball is going into the hole it feels great, especially in the Ryder Cup,” he said. “It was fun. I played really well, I really did.”
In the bottom match, US rookies Jeff Overton and Bubba Watson got off to a fast birdie-birdie start and were one up on Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington after eight holes.
World number one Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker led British duo Poulter and Ross Fisher by one after nine holes before Poulter’s birdie at the 10th squared the match.
Europe led the top encounter where third-ranked Lee Westwood and US PGA champion Martin Kaymer were one up on Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson after 12 holes. Westwood and Kaymer had gone three up after six before Mickelson and Johnson clawed their way back to trail by one.
“We had a good first hour of play or something, and then that two hours of play there was obviously in the Americans’ favour, Colin Montgomery, the Europe captain said.
“But at the same time, there’s no match that is anymore than two up or two down, so everyone is still in the game.”
The bad weather has forced the organisers of biennial competition to amend the format of the competition to stop it overrunning into Monday for the first time in the cup’s history.
A revamped second session on Saturday will feature six foursomes while a new extended third session will comprise two foursomes and four fourball encounters – both involving all 12
More than 40 per cent of the average monthly rainfall for October has fallen at Celtic Manor in less than 24 hours but relatively dry weather is forecast for Saturday.