By Tony Jimenez
GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - It was a case of 'watch the birdies' as the players from Europe and the United States produced some early fireworks on the second day of the 40th Ryder Cup on Saturday.
A series of long putts, and the occasional chip-in, disappeared from every angle on a cold, crisp morning on the picturesque hills and banks of Gleneagles as both teams gave a supreme exhibition of fourball shotmaking.
Holders Europe, leading 5-3 from the opening day, were all square in three matches and down in one.
European strongmen Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, bidding for their third straight victory as a pair this week, were level with Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar in match one with each combination cramming five birdies into the opening nine holes.
Hunter Mahan was proving the star of the show in match two, reeling off four birdies in eight holes as he and Jim Furyk surged three up on Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson.
There was another seven birdies in the third game of the day where Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer were locked together with first-day rookie sensations Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.
A rejuvenated Ian Poulter also looked desperate to make amends for his poor performance alongside debutant Stephen Gallacher on Friday.
Europe's talisman began his day with consecutive birdies at the first and second before he and Rory McIlroy were pegged back by Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler who were all square after seven holes in the last match of the morning.
Among the players waiting in the wings for a call-up for the afternoon foursomes was world number three Sergio Garcia, no doubt still bristling about derogatory comments made by Nick Faldo on Friday.
Faldo, commentating on television, described Garcia as "useless" when he captained the Spaniard in the 2008 edition at Valhalla in Kentucky.
The former world number one quickly toned down his remarks, acknowledging they were "harsh" and made in "tongue-in-cheek" fashion.
Garcia's 2014 colleagues circled the wagons around the Spaniard, led by Graeme McDowell who referred to the fact his team mate was left out on the second day by Faldo.
"Yeah, I'd say he was fairly useless on the Saturday afternoon because he wasn't able to play," said McDowell bluntly.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)