Harrington and McDowell go down fighting

Celtic tigers Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell went down fighting as the United States roared into a 5 - 2 Ryder Cup lead at steamy Valhalla.

The inspired Irishmen fired eight birdies in sensational fourball clash with Phil Mickelson and rookie Anthony Kim but lost 2-up as the Americans roared back from three down after four holes.

All square with two to play, Mickelson turned the screw when he drained a monster 40 foot birdie putt at the 477-yard 17th to put the Americans in front.

Needing a birdie at the last to have any chance of salvaging a half, Harrington and McDowell narrowly failed with long range birdie chances and conceded the Americans their 11th  birdie of the day and the match.

It was a bad day all round for Europe, who lost the morning foursomes session 3-1 with Harrington and Robert Karlsson blowing a three hole lead with six to play to halve with Mickelson and the impressive Kim.

In the afternoon fourballs, things were going Europe's way early on but while Justin Rose and Ian Poulter beat Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis 4 and 2, there was disappointment as Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez lost to Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan 4 and 3.

Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen were battling to avoid defeat in the anchor match as they trailed JB Holmes and Boo Weekley by one hole with four to play.

But that hardly worried Mickelson, who formed an undefeated opening day partnership with the impressive Kim.

Mickelson said: "It was fun to get that youthful exuberance that Anthony has. It was infectious and we played with a lot of heart and emotion. We were down and came back to halve one match and win another one. It was a fun hard day."

Paying tribute to Harrington, Mickelson added: "When the two-time British Open is making putts from everywhere, it was extremely difficult. He played very well and holed some wonderful putts.

"It kept taking momentum from us. Paddy would hole a 20 footer and it was very tough to combat that."

It was a remarkable turnaround by the American pair after Harrington and McDowell had reeled off three birdies in the first four holes to go three up

But rookie McDowell, 29, proved that he is a man for the big occasion when he holed a vital nine footer for birdie at the 15th leave the match all square with three to play.

With Europe trailing 3-1 after the morning foursomes, European skipper Nick Faldo needed his big guns to fire in the afternoon.

And it looked as though he was about to get his wish with Europe trailing in just one match and up in two more as the fourballs headed into the back nine.

English pair Poulter and  Rose got Europe's first victory of the day with a 4 and 2 win over rookies Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis.

But there was disappointment for Faldo in the last two matches as the Europeans failed to respond when the pressure was at its height.

Spaniards Jimenez and Garcia rallied from 2 down after three to trail Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan by the minimum with seven holes to go.

But the Americans claimed the 12th and 13th in birdiea to go three up and eventually cruised to a 4 and 3 win.

In the anchor match, Denmark's Soren Hansen was in brilliant form alongside Lee Westwood as they led JB Holmes and Boo Weekley by one hole at the turn.

But Weekley holed a 12 footer at the 10th to square the match and then chipped in for a winning birdie at the 12th to put the US one up.

US skipper Paul Azinger had targeted Harrington as Europe's dangerman following the Dubliner's back to back major winning feats this summer.

And he paid tribute to the reigning Open and US PGA champion, who almost single-handedly helped Robert Karlsson deny Kim and Mickelson in the foursomes before putting in another impressive performance in the afternoon.

"You have to actually take your hat off to Padraig Harrington who was just remarkable on the greens," Azinger said. "He made one key putt after another after another. That's who Padraig is. He's turned into a remarkable player and he just keeps making clutch putts, like he did on the last hole of the PGA Championship. Can't say enough about Padraig Harrington. He really kept us from winning that match."

Harrington and McDowell got off to a sensational start in the afternoon fourballs, reeling off birdies at the first four holes to race into a 3 up lead.

But the Americans bounced back to go to the turn just one down and set up a sensational back nine.

Harrington was immense on the greens, holing a 15 footer for what proved to be a vital half in birdie at the par-five 10th to remain one up.

The Dubliner came up trumps again at the 12th, bottling a 15 footer to maintain Europe's one up lead after Mickelson had stiffed his approach to set up a certain birdie.

The Irish pair had reeled off seven birdies to six by the Americans in the first 12 holes but Mickelson levelled the score at the 13th when he flicked a wedge to just four feet and holed the putt to  square the match after the Irish pair had missed from long range.

A two fro Kim at the 14th put the Americans one up and while McDowell hit back to square the match with a birdie at the 15th, Mickelson turned the match with that outrageous birdie at the 17th.