Advantage United States after opening session at Whistling Straits
Europe experienced an unwelcome sense of deja vu as the United States claimed a 3-1 lead after the opening session of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
World number one Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia led from the front with a foursomes victory over the top American pairing of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, but that was the only good news for Padraig Harrington’s side.
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa defeated Paul Casey and Norwegian rookie Viktor Hovland 3 and 2 to level the scores, while Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger beat Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick 2 and 1.
Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter had at least avoided suffering a record defeat to Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Schauffele after losing the first five holes, but the eventual 5 and 3 loss was a demoralising blow for one of Europe’s star pairings.
Europe also lost the opening session 3-1 in Paris in 2018, albeit in fourballs, but won all four afternoon matches on their way to a comprehensive seven-point victory at Le Golf National.
Garcia already held the record for most points won in the Ryder Cup with 25.5 and Friday’s win was his 23rd overall, equalling the record held by Nick Faldo.
Rahm holed from almost 60 feet for birdie on the fourth and further birdies on the eighth and 10th put the European pair in command, with Garcia crucially holing from 25 feet for another on the 15th before Thomas missed from much closer.
The Americans won the 16th to keep the match alive and Spieth then played an extraordinary shot from thick rough on a steep bank to the left of the 17th green, the slope forcing him to turn and almost run into Lake Michigan as he struggled to keep his balance, only for Thomas to miss the par putt.
“I don’t think I exaggerated that fall, you know how steep that is,” Spieth said. “Once I started moving, I was like, I’ve got to keep moving until I find a flat spot.”
McIlroy and Poulter were two over par for the first five holes and in danger of suffering the heaviest ever defeat in a foursomes match, the largest margin of victory of 7 and 6 most recently achieved by Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley against Westwood and Luke Donald in 2012.
It took until the 10th hole for a superb pitch from Poulter to set up a first birdie of the day and par was good enough to win the next before Schauffele almost holed his tee shot on the par-three 12th.
The birdie was duly conceded but Poulter holed from nine feet for a half and both teams also birdied the next before two more birdies from the Americans sealed the win.
“The start wasn’t great,” McIlroy said. “I don’t know if anyone could have beat (sic) Xander and Patrick today. They played really good, four birdies in a row. They were a great pairing today and all you can do is praise them for the way they played.”
Westwood missed from four feet for birdie on the opening hole and he and Fitzpatrick never led at any stage, while Casey and Hovland were one up after four before their opponents made three straight birdies from the 10th to turn the tide.
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