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U.S. takes three-point lead in Ryder Cup

Time Today's pairings
8:05 a.m. Stewart Cink-Chad Campbell (USA) vs. Ian Poulter-Justin Rose (Europe)
8:20 a.m. Justin Leonard-Hunter Mahan (USA) vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez-Graeme McDowell (Europe)
8:35 a.m. Phil Mickelson-Anthony Kim (USA) vs. Henrik Stenson-Oliver Wilson (Europe)
8:50 a.m. Jim Furyk-Kenny Perry (USA) vs. Padraig Harrington-Robert Karlsson (Europe)


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Phil Mickelson pointed his putter toward the cup, took a step and punched his fist to celebrate a clutch birdie. Boo Weekley revved up the crowd after holing a 50-foot putt from just off the green. Anthony Kim set a record for high-fives.

Yes, those were the Americans having all the fun Friday at Valhalla.

At the Ryder Cup, no less.

"My cheeks are sore from smiling all day long," Justin Leonard said. "This was a lot different than my other Ryder Cup experiences."

The Americans rallied from a back-nine deficit four times to take a 5½-2½ lead, their largest margin after the opening day since the Ryder Cup expanded in 1979 to include all of Europe and not just Britain and Ireland.

Mickelson and Kim twice erased three-hole deficits and picked up 1½ points, as many as Lefty earned in the past two Ryder Cups combined. Leonard had never won a Ryder Cup match until two blowout wins with Hunter Mahan, one of six U.S. rookies who ignored recent European dominance.

"We're in a good place," U.S. captain Paul Azinger said. "Who would have thought?"

The Americans hadn't led after any session since last winning the Ryder Cup in 1999.

Now European captain Nick Faldo is reeling.

"We've had a tough time," Faldo said. "We lost a few points, but we haven't lost any spirit."

One of the few bright spots for Europe was Lee Westwood, who tied Arnold Palmer by running his unbeaten streak to 12 matches. He and Soren Hansen earned a halve in the fourball match against Weekley and J.B. Holmes when Hansen birdied No. 18.

Yet, in a surprising move, Faldo benched Westwood and Sergio Garcia for this morning's foursomes. Neither has missed a Ryder Cup match — 27 straight for Westwood, 22 straight for Garcia. Combined, they are 27-5-8 in team play.

Azinger will use the same players for today's foursomes that he used on the opening day, which produced a 3-1 lead.

In the opening match, Mickelson and Kim were 3-down through 12 until winning three straight holes and earning a halve against Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson. Down by three after four holes in the afternoon, Kim gave them their first lead with a 7-foot birdie on the 14th, and Mickelson hit a 20-foot birdie on 17 that led to a 2-up victory.

"We played with a lot of heart and a lot of emotion today to pull the halve and win out," Mickelson said. "… I love playing with this guy. Anthony has got this youthfulness to him, and he has a lot of game."

Weekley, from the Panhandle town of Milton, nailed a 50-foot birdie from just off the green at No. 12 to give his team a lead it never relinquished until the 18th. Westwood took issue with Weekley whipping the crowd into a frenzy after the putt.

"You walk a fine line when you start doing that sort of thing," Westwood said. "I don't mind raising your arms and whipping the crowd up. But at 12 when Boo holed off the back (of the green), I've still got a putt for the halve. There's no need to do it between shots. At least wait until we're walking off the green."

When/where: Through Sunday; Louisville, Ky.

Course: Valhalla Golf Club (7,496 yards, par 71)

TV: 8 a.m. today and noon Sunday, Ch. 8

Weather today: A 10 percent chance for rain, with high 84, low 62.

Web sites: rydercup.com and europeantour.com

Format: Four matches of foursomes and fourballs today; 12 singles matches Sunday.

Scoring: One point is awarded for each of the 28 matches. If it ends in a tie, each team gets a half-point. As the defending champion, Europe needs only 14 points to retain the Ryder Cup.

Foursomes: Also known as alternate shot. The two-man teams will select one player to tee off on odd-numbered holes, while the other tees off on even-number holes. They play only one ball, alternating shots until the hole is completed.

Fourballs: Also known as better ball. Both players from each team play their own ball until the hole is completed, using the lowest score from each team.

U.S. takes three-point lead in Ryder Cup 09/19/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 5:36pm]
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