KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- A resolute U.S. team jumped out to a quick lead yesterday morning, and then, contradicting recent history, held on to the lead yesterday afternoon to hold a 4 1/2 -points-to-3 1/2 edge over Europe after the first day of the 29th Ryder Cup.
In team match play, the United States was led by Raymond Floyd and Fred Couples, who won both of their matches. In the second, they handed Europe's star team, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam, its second defeat of the day.
It was the first time since 1985 that the United States ended the first of three days of cup competition in the lead. The Americans, who dominated the biennial Ryder Cup competition the first 26 times it was played, have not won since 1983.
"It's a new Ryder Cup," said Mark Calcavecchia, who along with Payne Stewart beat Faldo and Woosnam in the morning foursome matches, in which teammates take alternate shots. "We're home and it helps. And we are all playing a little better than we were last time."
Despite the deficit, the Europeans ended the day positively by prevailing in the day's two closest matches, continuing a pattern they have benefited from since winning the cup in 1985.
First, David Feherty holed a 7-foot par putt on the 18th hole to gain half a point by finishing even against Lanny Wadkins and Mark O'Meara, after Wadkins had left short an 8-footer to win the match.
Then Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal beat Paul Azinger and Chip Beck, 2 and 1, after Azinger and Beck both hit their tee shots in the water on the par-3 17th.
The U.S. captain, Dave Stockton, was cautiously pleased by a morning performance in which his team took a 3-1 lead. It was the same edge the U.S. team had in 1987 and 1989, only to be swept in the afternoon matches.
But yesterday, the United States kept its focus better in the four-ball matches than it had in previous years. Still, Europeans again gained ground in the four-ball matches, in which only a twosome's best score on a hole is counted. In this format, the Europeans built a 17 1/2 -6 1/2 edge over the Americans in the previous three Ryder Cups.
The biggest bright spot was Floyd, 49, the non-playing U.S. captain in 1989, who was picked by Stockton for his short game and his leadership.
"I'm playing as well as I've played in my entire career," said Floyd, who along with Couples beat Bernhard Langer and Mark James, 2 and 1, in the morning.
As expected, the matches were hotly contested, made more emotional by the 25,000 mostly partisan fans who formed a moving stadium in the wind-swept dunes of the Ocean Course.
U.S. players often encouraged the fans to cheer their successes, and Corey Pavin, who along with Calcavecchia were beaten, 5 and 4, by James and Steven Richardson in the afternoon four-ball, even wore a hat with a camouflage pattern.