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Europe Takes Narrow Lead at Ryder Cup - 2002-09-27

Europe jumped to a quick start on the opening day of the Ryder Cup golf tournament in England. In the afternoon, the U.S. team closed the gap to trail Europe by one point, four and one-half to three and one-half. The U.S. team is trying to adjust to a short, narrow layout.

The U.S. team is loaded with players who hit the longest balls in professional golf. But at the Belfry, the course is set up to favor the slightly shorter and precise game of the European team. That helped the Europeans to win the first three points on Friday.

American Davis Love, who with David Duval lost their fourball match to Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood of Britain, pointed out that playing the Belfry requires an adjustment.

"You just got to hit it to the position off the tee where there is a wide enough area to hit the ball into and just go from there," he said. "You know, it is obvious they did not want this to become a long drive contest or who can hit it the farthest in the fairway contest. But it is very narrow out there."

Paul Azinger and Tiger Woods lost by one hole to Darren Clarke of Ireland and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark. Woods is the number one player in the world, but Azinger said even he is having trouble at the Belfry.

"We have some very powerful hitters that are forced to hit irons off every tee," he said. "I mean, Tiger [Woods] hit driver twice today on both par fives. He is hitting into an area that is about 15 yards wide, even less than that maybe on 17. The guy is forced to play back. His strength is his power."

The United States has not won a fourball session since 1995, but won two out of the three Ryder Cup titles during that time.