Ryder Cup: Dream team of Rose and Stenson lead way for Europe

Europe's Henrik Stenson, right, and Justin Rose on the first tee during day one of the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
Europe's Henrik Stenson, right, and Justin Rose on the first tee during day one of the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
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For all the talk about Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter as the men to beat, players like Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson had gone into this Ryder Cup very much under the radar.

Considering the year they had each enjoyed in 2013, when Rose won his first major championship and Stenson climbed to No 2 in the world, it is a surprise they had been so overlooked.

Their performance yesterday underlined the strength in depth of the European team and also the strength of their partnership.

Two wins from two across both formats, and on each occasion achieved with holes to spare.

The English-Swedish alliance will give Tom Watson and his American team cause to realign their targets when the second day of competition begins this morning.

For they proved to be Europe’s top duo, comfortably defeating Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson in a nerve-jangling first fourballs match, before accounting for Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson in the foursomes.

Rose even made light of a wasp sting as he and Stenson put Europe’s first point on the board at Gleneagles.

The pair were already two up playing the ninth when Rose, who played impressively throughout, went off line and encountered his minor problem.

But while he was struggling with a pain in his hand Stenson birdied to put them further ahead and Rose won another two holes on the back nine as they swept aside Watson and Simpson 5&4.

“He leaked one down that hazard on nine and while looking for the ball he was stung by a wasp,” said Stenson.

“He said ‘I probably deserved that after the second shot’. He seems to be okay.

“I ‘high-fived’ him right on that stingy bit on the thumb after he made the putt on 10 and he could still continue so I guess he’s all right.”

Rose added: “When you go out first, that’s the position the captain puts you into to go deliver a point. That’s what me and the ‘ice man’ came to do today. We got off to a good start and we know how key that was.

“The course was playing hard early and we managed to steal a few birdies when we could.”

Rose and Stenson’s victory would prove to be Europe’s only full point of a morning session that slipped away from the hosts.

Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer led Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker for much of their duel. They were three up through four holes and remained two ahead with three remaining but Walker made birdies at the 16th and held his nerve at the 18th as the spoils were shared.

Scotland’s only representative Stephen Gallacher, who is making his debut, and Mr Ryder Cup himself, Ian Poulter, were never in the running against rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed and went down to a 5&4 defeat.

Gallacher found a fairway bunker off the first tee and Poulter found sand with his approach before missing from three feet for par to lose the hole.

They never recovered against the red-hot rookies with Reed in sublime form. Europe were six down at one stage before Poulter left a putt to keep the match alive on the 14th short, and the US claimed their first point.

A second came after an absorbing match in the premier clash of the morning, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley pipping Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy in a dramatic nip-and-tuck encounter that ebbed and flowed.

After finishing before noon, Rose and Stenson were given an extra 15 minutes by McGinley before taking to the first tee again to face Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson, who had been rested in the morning.

Rose birdied the first and sixth but that lead was wiped out in the space of the next two holes. Birdies were traded on the 11th and 14th before the United States’ game began to unravel.

Mahan missed a six-foot par putt at the 15th, where Europe did well to get up and down from the back of the green, and then the American raced one past the hole from the back fringe of the 17th green. With Stenson having rolled his birdie attempt to within two feet, Johnson needed to hole out to keep the match alive but failed and Rose knocked in to make sure.

“This afternoon, we really clicked into gear,” said Rose. “I think Henrik and I were a strong pairing.”

Ahead of Europe’s talismen, Lee Westwood moved a half point behind the great Seve Ballesteros onto 22 points in this his ninth Ryder Cup with a victory alongside rookie Jamie Donaldson.

The experienced pairing of Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk were one up when Westwood’s 15-foot birdie at the short sixth and a Donaldson par saw a two-shot swing in as many holes. Another Westwood putt, this time from eight feet, at the 11th put Europe two up and Donaldson holed a crucial 12-footer at the next for a half after Furyk had hit his approach close.

Donaldson messed up his approach to the par-five 16th which allowed Furyk to birdie, but then Kuchar duffed his chip into the final green, giving Europe three shots to clinch a victory.

The other pair rested for the morning also delivered an afternoon point, with Graeme McDowell effusive in his praise of French rookie Victor Dubuisson, who he hailed as the next big thing in European golf.

The pair capitalised on a tiring Mickelson and Bradley to close out a 3&2 victory on the 16th green.

That came shortly after McIlroy and Garcia’s later heroics completed a fine afternoon from Europe. But it is the partnership of Rose and Stenson on whose shoulders much will rest today.