Powered by a raucous home crowd, Team US took a strong 6-2 lead at the 43rd Ryder Cup.
The home side dominated the opening session at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, Friday, taking an early 3-1 lead.
Although Spanish pairing Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia provided some European resistance, it was the red of the US which painted the leaderboard.
Rookies Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele dominated the experienced Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter to win 5&3, Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger edged Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick, while Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa beat Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland.
And in the afternoon, it wasn’t much better for the visitors.
The combination of two-time major winner Johnson and gold medal winner Schauffele claimed a narrow victory over Bernd Wiesberger and Casey, while Harris English and Tony Finau dominated McIlroy and Shane Lowry.
The battle between Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler and Rahm Tyrrell Hatton was fiercely contested, with a key putt from Hatton on the last hole winning the European team a vital half point.
And in the final foursome of the day, it was another hotly-fought battle, with European pairing of Tommy Fleetwood and Hovland surrendering a lead to Thomas and Cantlay, with the match also ending in a tie, leaving the American’s with a four-point advantage after day one.
Trusting the conditions
The morning of the Ryder Cup was wrought with excitement.
Fans packed the stands by the first tee even before the sun had risen, singing songs about their beloved Team US.
And when the players teed off, all was calm, and players took advantage.
Scoring was low and the contests were tight. But eventually, the home team — with a team full of major winners — was able to turn the screw.
Although Rahm and Garcia were in control in the opening foursomes match, it was much more tense in the following two games.
A late flurry of birdies helped Johnson and Morikawa to victory, and while Westwood and Fitzpatrick were able to hold off the US’ birdies, they couldn’t bite back at Koepka and Berger, eventually losing 2&1.
And the final foursome was a complete domination from start to finish, as Cantlay and Schauffele birdied the opening five holes to take a commanding lead, birdieing the final two to clinch a commanding victory.
While conditions were calm in the opening round of foursomes, the wind off of Lake Michigan picked up before the afternoon’s fourballs, making conditions tricky for players.
But immediately in the opening fourballs — between Johnson and Schauffele of the US and Wiesberger and Casey of Europe — the home team mastered the conditions from the start. The pair picked up four birdies in the opening five holes, opening up a big lead.
Despite a stubborn European defense, Johnson and Schauffele claimed an impressive victory, winning 2&1.
The second matchup — Scheffler and DeChambeau vs. Rahm and Hatton — was much tighter, with the lead swinging from side to side. Eventually though, a clutch birdie put from Hatton on the 18th gave Europe a much-needed half point.
In the third match, it was the Finau show. The 32-year-old carded four birdies and no bogeys as he dominated with English to win 4&3.
The final fourball of the day came right down to the wire. Fleetwood and Hovland raced into a lead, and after surrendering the opportunity to extend it, the US came roaring back, making for a nervy last few holes.
Although both sets of players produced some excellent golf, neither could find the winning touch so they had to settle for a draw.
Although it looks a daunting task, McIlroy is adamant the Europeans can prevail. “We can come back from 6-2,” he told the media.
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