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U.S. gets off to promising start at Ryder Cup


SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — The U.S. Ryder Cup team won the opening session, 3-1, over Europe in foursomes Friday at Whistling Straits.
Before any American golf fans get too overconfident, however, they may remember that the U.S. also won the opening session in the last Ryder Cup, in 2018 outside of Paris, before being swept 4-0 in the Friday afternoon session and being routed by seven points by the end.
Europe, in fact, has not won an opening session since 2006, yet the Europeans have won four of the past five Ryder Cups and nine of the past 12.
Still, though, Friday morning was encouraging for the U.S., particularly since it came in the alternate shot format, which is traditionally dominated by the Europeans, who entered this week having outscored the U.S. 37 ½ to 26 ½ in foursomes dating back to 2004.
Jon Rahm, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, paired with Sergio Garcia, who entered the week with as many Ryder Cup points (25 ½) as the entire U.S. team had, batted leadoff and defeated Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas on the opening match, 3-up.

For Garcia, the win was his 23rd in the Ryder Cup, tying Nick Faldo for the most in history. Arnold Palmer is second with 22.

The Americans swept the next three matches, though, with the most emphatic result a 5-up win by Americans rookies Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele over Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, two of Europe’s veterans. Cantlay and Schauffele won the first five holes and never looked back.
“I don’t know if anyone could have beaten Xander and Patrick today,’’ McIlroy said afterward. “They played really good — four birdies in a row. Geez, yeah, they played great. They were a great pairing and all you can do is praise them for how they played.’’
Before the matches began, Poulter, who’s the emotional heartbeat of the European team, was asked about the experience advantage he and McIlroy had on the two Americans rookies and he said, “It counts a lot. We have played some great golf together through the years and this is going to be another special match. It’s going to be a good test. It’s about putting points on the board. We have done that a lot for Team Europe and we’re going to do it again.’’
Poulter, who had a 14-7-2 career record in the Ryder Cup, is now 2-4-2 in the past three competitions and he’s 1-4-1 in team play since Medinah in 2012. So you wonder whether the shine is wearing off for the Englishman.
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa, another of the six rookies on the U.S. side, defeated Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland, 3-up, in the second match. 

Collin Morikawa of team United States plays his shot from the ninth tee during Friday Morning Foursome Matches of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 24, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Collin Morikawa is one of six rookies on a youth-infused US Ryer Cup team.
Getty Images

“Everyone knows (Morikawa) is a really good iron player, and if I’m driving it well and driving it in the fairway we’re going to be a pretty tough team,’’ Johnson said. “We just played a really solid round of golf.’’

And Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger, both of whom played college golf at Florida State, took down 48-year-old Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick, 2-up.
After that match, NBC analyst and 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger delivered this zinger as a tweak to the FSU football program: “First win of the year for Florida State.’’ 

Overall, in the foursomes the U.S. won 22 holes to 15 for Europe.

The U.S. is 13-0 (4-0 since 1979) when leading after the opening session on home soil.

In somewhat of a surprise, U.S. captain Steve Stricker didn’t send any of the same teams back out to play in the afternoon four-balls (best ball), breaking up his three winning combinations from the morning, the most shocking of which was Cantlay and Schauffele, who looked like a force. 

In the afternoon four-balls, Johnson and Schauffele played Casey and rookie Bernd Weisberger, Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler played Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, Tony Finau and Harris English played McIlroy and Shane Lowery and Thomas and Cantlay played Tommy Fleetwood and Hovland.

That meant all 12 players from both teams played at least one match Friday.

The American players who sat in the afternoon Friday were Spieth, Morikawa, Koepka and Berger. The European players out for the afternoon were Westwood, Garcia, Fitzpatrick and Poulter.

Both Stricker and European captain Padraig Harrington said on Thursday, they had a plan for both sessions in place before Friday’s competition began, and it looks like neither strayed from that plan despite the morning results.


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