Top man Padraig Harrington saved Nick Faldo's blushes to grab a vital half  for Europe in a nail-biting opening foursomes.

The triple major winner survived a bad neck and some erratic play by partner Robert Karlsson to share the spoils with American top dogs Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim.

It was one of the few highlights of a bad morning for the Europeans as Paul Azinger's American heroes came back from a disastrous start to edge the session 3-1.

After missing a 10-footer for victory at the last, Harrington said: "I think we're disappointed. We had a chance at the last hole. We had a putt to win from ten feet and I thought I had holed it.

"Besides that, we can't be disappointed. We did as well as we could. We didn't leave too many shots out there. You know, we fought really hard and took a lot of opportunities.

"We turned over a number of holes out there, so we can't complain about the halve, even though it would have been very sweet to get the win there.

"It was classic match play because it wasn't classic golf. I certainly struggled a bit with my swing, but thankfully myself and Robert knew what to expect of each other.

"We knew that we were not going to play orthodox golf and we were going to get it up-and-down. We did that. We did ever so well. I don't think we ever let up on any single shot out there. You know, that's all you can ask yourself."

Harrington had treatment on his neck after eight holes from physio Dale Richardson but dismissed the injury scare as a minor blip.

He said: "It's fine. It was just a little thin through six or seven holes. I was worried about it getting worse rather than anything else and it seems to be fine. It's warmed up nicely with the heat."

Europe looked to be freewheeling to victory when Harrington and Karlsson won the 10th, 11th and 12th to surge into a three up lead with six to play.

But with Karlsson misfiring and Harrington far from his major winning best, the Americans won the 13th and 14th in par and the 15th in birdie to level the match.

Harrington then saved Europe from embarrassment when he drained a vital 15 footer for a half at the 16th and hit a brilliant bunker shot to three feet at the 17th kept Europe alive.

And while he could have won the match with a birdie at the last after Kim had failed to escape from greenside sand, his 10 footer burned the edge of the hole and stayed out.

Mickelson paid tribute to Harrington afterwards, explaining: "They played some great golf and Padraig made some great putts. That putt he holed on the 16th to keep them from going down was a huge putt because they would have lost four holes in a row.

"Fortunately we were able to win those three to get back to even and I thought we might have a chance on 17 and 18 but unfortunately, we couldn't make a birdie.

"Still, we're grateful to get out of the match with a half after being three down with six to go. We wanted this so bad that we were a little tight on some shots. We have got to freewheel a little bit this afternoon and play more relaxed and see if we can make some more birdies."

As Europe's three time Major winner, Harrington took the responsibility of hitting the first shot in the 37th Ryder Cup and did not disappoint as he nudged a driver straight down the middle.

The US crowd had been whipped into a frenzy by skipper Paul Azinger at a 4th Street "Pep Rally" on the eve of the matches with the American urging fans to rile the Europeans at every opportunity.

Joined on stage by his entire team, Azinger screamed at the 4,000 fans: "Has everyone got a ticket? Has everyone got a ticket?"

Waving his arms, he roared: "You can cheer when they miss a putt. You can cheer when they miss a putt."

The crowd lapped it up and they were in full voice from 7.30 am on the first tee, chanting, "U.S.A., U.S.A." and "Soccer Sucks, Soccer Sucks."

Europe's fans responded with 12 Irishmen dressed a leprechauns joining in the traditional soccer chants of "Ole Ole Ole" and "Where's your Tiger gone?" to the tune of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road.

The chants were soon all European as Harrington rolled in a six footer for birdie at the first to put the Blues one up.

But it soon became clear that the top European pairing were not quite firing on all cylinders with Harrington cutting a dreadful  six-iron into the hazard at the 206-yard third to gift the Americans the hole in par.

It looked as though Europe would lose the 500 yard sixth when Karlsson carved his tee shot miles right and Harrington was forced to chip back to the fairway.

But Mickelson missed the green to open the door and Harrington drained a 12 footer for what proved to be a winning par four to steal one against the head and put Europe one up.

He saved Europe at the par-five seventh by holing a six footer for a half in par after putting his side in trouble with a hooked tee shot into a lateral hazard.

But the Americans were back on terms at the next after Karlsson bunkered his tee shot to the 180-yard eighth and then missed a six footer after Harrington had hit the stick with his approach.

In the end Harrington was pleased to get a half, explaing: "We can't complain. We've got to see that as being positive. We did fight over those last three holes to keep it."