Europe’s defence of the Ryder Cup got off to an atmospheric start on a sunny but chilly morning at Gleneagles in Perthshire.
Justin Rose left an early birdie attempt inches short which would have provided the perfect opening but Europe’s team, enjoying home advantage, looked more comfortable than their United States opponents.
Chants of “One Paul McGinley” and “10-6 and you still don’t win” – in reference to the United States’ collapse at Medinah two years ago – were eclipsed by a wall of noise as Rose and Henrik Stenson emerged from the tunnel from the practice ground.
There were nerves all around as veteran starter Ivor Robson managed to announce Webb Simpson as Bubba Watson but the American wild card appeared even more jittery as his tee shot was only 190 yards and barely reached the fairway.
Watson recreated his antics of Medinah by urging the crowd to make as much noise as possible and hit a huge fade to find the left rough. Rose and Stenson both had better drives but while the Swede’s approach found the greenside bunker his team-mate stuck it to 15 feet.
With Simpson’s nerves continuing to bother him as he could only find the front edge and hit an unconvincing putt, Watson got America’s par four but Rose could not capitalise.
As the second group walked to the first tee Dane Thomas Bjorn patted the image of the late Seve Ballesteros – such an integral part of this event and the inspiration for the miracle at Medinah – as he emerged from the tunnel. He and partner Martin Kaymer went on to win their first hole against Ricky Fowler and Jimmy Walker.
Stephen Gallacher then got his round under way alongside Ian Poulter against Jordan
Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Gallacher, however, missed the fairway with his tee shot as the European pairing dropped the opening hole.
But Europe’s defence of the Ryder Cup got off to an encouraging start as they later led in three of the four morning fourballs.
Surprisingly only Ian Poulter, their leading scorer in the last three events, was not among the pace-setters as he and rookie Stephen Gallacher struggled early on.
There were no such problems for Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, sent out first against big-hitting Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
The Europe pair were two up after just four holes and could easily have doubled that advantage before they reached the turn.
Veteran Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer, who holed the putt which retained the trophy in Medinah two years ago, got off to an even better start as they were three up in four holes until Rickie Fowler’s birdie pulled back a stroke.
The stellar group of world No.1 Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley did not live up to their star-billing with some ordinary golf all-round.
However, Garcia produced one moment of magic to hole from a greenside bunker for a birdie at the fourth to edge ahead.
There were struggles for Poulter and Gallacher, captain Paul McGinley’s surprise pairing, as they lost the opening hole to a par and went further behind when rookie Patrick Reed holed from distance from the back of the sixth green.
Players from both sides appeared to be struggling with the slow greens. The pace of them had been reduced in anticipation of strong winds which never materialised as Gleneagles basked in autumnal sunshine.