Kentucky, September 20:

US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was cautiously optimistic after his players built a 5.5 to 2.5 lead over holders Europe heading into second day at Valhalla.

“Well, clearly we haven’t led in a long time, so we’re real happy about that,” Azinger said after the US seized a first-day lead in the biennial trans-Atlantic tussle for the first time since 1995.

The US are trying to wrest the Cup from Europe’s grasp for the first time in three editions. They lead in overall wins since the first competition in 1927 by 24-10 with two ties, but Europe have won five of the last six.

The first day performance was an enormous fillip for the hosts, who were underdogs on US soil for the first time. Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan teamed for two match wins, while Mahan’s fellow rookie Anthony Kim teamed with Phil Mickelson to capture 1.5 points.

Azinger decided not to mess with success in Saturday’s foursomes, sending out the same teams he fielded on Friday.

Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell took on Europe’s Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, Leonard and Mahan faced Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell, Mickelson and Kim played Henrik Stenson and Oliver Wilson and Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry faced Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson.

Captain’s pick Poulter and Rose got off to a quick start, winning the first hole under cloudy skies with intermittent light rain that was expected to move out of the area before the end of the day. European captain Nick Faldo took the bold step of resting both Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia for the first time in their Ryder Cup careers for Saturday’s foursomes. Garcia, who had never failed to win in eight career Ryder Cup foursomes matches, halved his foursomes and lost in fourball on Friday.