Europe produced a stirring fightback in the afternoon foursomes to establish a 5-3 lead after day one of The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
The hosts had looked well placed in the morning fourballs as Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson ran out 5 and 4 winners over Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson in the first match of the biennial contest.
But Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher lost by the same margin to rookies Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, before Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth snatched a half from Thomas Björn and Martin Kaymer on the 18th green having trailed for the entire contest after losing three of the first four holes.
In the highly-anticipated anchor game Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia led with three holes to play, but a brilliant approach to the 16th saw Keegan Bradley square the contest with an eagle, and Phil Mickelson birdied the last to leave Paul McGinley’s side trailing 2 ½ – 1 ½ after the morning session.
Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood took the opening foursomes game of the afternoon against Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar by a two-up margin, before the irrepressible Rose and Stenson saw off Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson 2 and 1.
Garcia and McIlroy then turned the tables with a comeback of their own against Fowler and Walker despite the World Numbers One and Three struggling from the tee for much of the afternoon.
McIlroy induced a huge cheer from the crowd when his 40 foot birdie putt at the 17th took the contest down the last, but when his drive at the 18th struck a tree the European pair were staring at a second defeat of the day.
However, Garcia produced a majestic second – bending a hybrid 230 yards from the rough around a tree and to 20 feet, from where two putts were enough to snatch an unlikely half.
Bradley and Mickelson could not mount a second comeback of the day, as Victor Dubuisson enjoyed an impressive debut alongside Graeme McDowell, the European pair winning 3 and 2.
Speaking about the dramatic finish, McIlroy said: “We needed it, we really did. We were making life difficult for ourselves out there. I don’t think either of us was playing from the fairways very much.
“We just wanted to ask them a question and get them going and we were able to do that. And Sergio had the shot of the day at the last. It was big, and at least we got something out of the day. We played two really tough matches and we have half a point to show for it.”
Garcia added: “We knew we weren’t playing good. We fought as hard as we could. Half a point is just huge.”
McGinley echoed that sentiment, adding: “That was probably as good as a win, to come back from where they were.”
Source: European Tour