Uphill task ahead for Europe as US seize 3-1 fourballs lead
Europe face a massive task to regain the Ryder Cup after losing the opening session 3-1, with only some late heroics from Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari preventing a second consecutive whitewash.
Captain Thomas Bjorn admitted earlier this week he dreaded a repeat of the opening session at Hazeltine – where he was a vice-captain – which set the United States on their way to a 17-11 victory in 2016.
But that almost transpired as the gamble of playing four of his five rookies in the opening session backfired, although the Dane was hardly helped by an insipid performance from Rory McIlroy, who was amazingly the only player not to make a single birdie.
McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen won just one hole when Olesen’s par on the eighth proved enough to give them the lead, but the European pair managed just one birdie from then on as they slumped to a 4&2 loss to Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.
Justin Rose and Jon Rahm twice enjoyed a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau in the opening match, but were pegged back to all square when Finau’s water-bound tee-shot on the 16th hit a wooden sleeper surrounding the hazard and bounced up to within three feet of the hole.
And when Rose found the water with his approach to the 18th, the American duo were able to make a regulation par to pull off an unlikely victory.
Team Europe´s Rory McIlroy looked out of sorts on the opening morning of the Ryder Cup (Gareth Fuller/PA).
Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton fell three down to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas when Spieth made five birdies in the first seven holes, but the English pair fought back superbly to get back on level terms after 13 holes, only for Thomas to crucially birdie the 15th and hold on for victory.
Molinari and Fleetwood were also in danger of suffering defeat when they lost three holes to par on the front nine to trail by two with eight to play, but Molinari birdied the 11th and 12th, Fleetwood repeated the feat on the 15th and 16th and Molinari finished it in style with another birdie on 17.
Bjorn must have been tempted to leave McIlroy out of a session for the first time in his career, but kept faith with the Northern Irishman for the afternoon foursomes, pairing him with Ian Poulter in match two against Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
Rose and Henrik Stenson were reunited in the opening match against Johnson and Fowler, with Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren taking on Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau and Molinari and Fleetwood in the final match against Thomas and Spieth.
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