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Golf

Ryder Cup:Early Sunday News

Brian Spurlock-US Presswire

At 11.03 local time Luke Donald hit a perfect drive on the first tee to launch the greatest day in golf that only happens once every two years. The Ryder Cup singles had begun and Bubba Watson (pictured) played next amid cheers that he uniquely encouraged to continue as he played his shot.

Ten minutes later both players had birdied the first hole for a half and the scene was set for a wonderful sporting occasion. The final day of third most viewed sporting event around the world after the Olympics and soccer World Cup had begun with the United States leading 10-6 and requiring just another four and a half points to win the Ryder Cup.

The home side have lost four of the last five renewals and were massive favourites before play started on Sunday to improve on that record. However, European captain Jose Maria Olazabal called on his players to remember and replicate the spirit and determination of Seve Ballesteros who did more than anybody else to further his continent’s cause.

US captain Davis Love was obviously feeling more comfortable than his counterpart but memories of Brookline Country Club in 1999 were no doubt in his mind when the States came back to win despite a four point deficit ahead of the singles. Even so his side had played so well over the first two days that they could be about to achieve their biggest winning margin since 1981.

The order of appearance had been carefully considered by both captains and the fact that Love decided to play Tiger Woods in the last match suggested he believed the competition would only be decided late on Sunday afternoon. Despite a great start on the course for the Europeans their best player, Rory McIlroy, got his time zones mixed up and only just arrived on the course in time for his match against Keegan Bradley.

One of the key early matches was between Ian Poulter and the US Open champion, Webb Simpson. Poulter was so confident before his match began than he confidently predicted he would win a point for his team. A chip in for a birdie on the first gave him an ideal start but Simpson responded by draining his putt for a half.

The final day was in progress and it was very clear that this was not going to be a formality for the home team. Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose were next to start their match in a raucous but respectful atmosphere with most of the home support wearing red. There was little of that colour on the leader board at that early stage of a day of sporting drama that is unique in the sport of golf.