USA dominate opening foursomes in bid to reclaim Ryder Cup
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Kohler (United States) (AFP) –
The United States launched their bid to regain the Ryder Cup with a dominant display in the opening foursomes to take a 3-1 leave over holders Europe at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin on Friday.
Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele and newly crowned US PGA Tour FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay roared out of the gate on the way to a 5&3 victory over European veterans Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.
The Spanish duo of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia grabbed the only point of the morning for Europe with a 3&1 victory over Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in the first match.
Then followed a surge of red on the scoreboard starting with Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa beating Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland 3&2.
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger never trailed on the way to a 2&1 victory over Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Schauffele and Cantlay -- both Ryder Cup rookies -- lived up to expectations set by their 2019 Presidents Cup performance and recent form with an emphatic victory that looked like ending much sooner when they won the first five holes against McIlroy and Poulter.
"A start like that, I'm really glad we kept our nerve and kept our foot down," Cantlay said.
McIlroy and Poulter couldn't make any inroads until winning the 10th and 11th, but Cantlay stuck his second shot within three feet at the 14th for a birdie and a birdie to win the 15th sealed it.
Europe owed it's lone point of the morning to the putter of world number one Rahm, who formed another sensational Spanish partnership with Garcia.
Rahm's outstanding morning on the greens included a 58-foot birdie putt from the fringe to win the fourth hole, along with winning putts of 14, 12 and 15 feet on the front nine.
After Spieth and Thomas trimmed the deficit at the 13th, Garcia responded with a 24-footer of his own at 15 that put the pressure on Spieth to make his eight-footer -- which slid past the lip to leave the Americans three-down with three to play.
Thomas and Spieth extended the match with a birdie at the par-5 16th, but Thomas's tee shot at the par-3 17th kicked down the steep grassy bank left of the green.
Spieth's stance was so awkward he lost his balance as he hit the shot and had to work to stop himself ending up in Lake Michigan -- but the ball ended up just six feet from the pin.
Thomas couldn't make the putt and the match was over with Rahm and Garcia's par.
"I knew my job was going to be to make some putts and that's what I did early on," Rahm said.
Garcia notched his 23rd Ryder Cup match win, tying the record of Nick Faldo. He extended his record for Ryder Cup points won to 26.5.
With four-balls matches coming up in the afternoon, Garcia said the lopsided session was nothing for Europe to panic about.
"It's not a big deal. It's just the first session," he said. "A lot of things can happen. We have a good session this afternoon and everything is back to normal."
But the outcome was certainly to the taste of tens of thousands of raucuous fans at Whistling Straits, where the action got underway barely half an hour after the sun rose over Lake Michigan.
Crowds of about 40,000 each day promised to be overwhelmingly pro-USA thanks to continuing coronavirus travel restrictions.
European captain Padraig Harrington said he and his players were just fine with that.
"We want this atmosphere," said Harrington, repeating the mantra that a pro-US crowd was better than no crowd -- the scenario that threatened before the event was finally postponed from 2020.
- 'Unbelievable' scene -
US captain Steve Stricker called the atmosphere "unbelievable."
"It's what we've been waiting for, right?" said Stricker "Three years since the last Ryder Cup."
Stricker, a Wisconsin native, said he expected spectators to be loud but respectful to the European team.
There were scatterings of jeers for the Europeans early on, but Spieth offered a dressing-down to one fan at the third hole who he felt had gone too far in heckling the visitors.
Europe are trying to hang on to the Cup they captured in France in 2018 against a US team stacked with nine of the world's top 11 players.
The Europeans have won nine of the last 12 editions of the biennial match play event, including three of the past six on US soil.
© 2021 AFP