A humble first morning of the 43rd Ryder Cup saw Europe take off once again slowly. Thank goodness for Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia in the first game, because without the new Spanish Armada the chances of the visitors could already be considered to have diminished with barely a trace.
Rahm and Garcia staved off six birdies to defeat Justin Thomas and Justin Spieth 3 & 1 in a high-quality encounter. But for the Blue and Gold Brigade, it was like that as they lost the quartets – supposedly their preferred format – 3-1.
In the final game, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter lost the first five holes to rookies Xander Sc Chaudele and Patrick Cantlay en route to a 5 & 3 bombardment. It sounded like a declaration of victory from Team USA and the stats only bolstered the growing crowd confidence.
The United States have taken the lead after the opening session 13 times at home – and won on every opportunity. This is the scale of the challenge facing Padraig Harrington’s team.
Too bad for the weather which comes to their aid. A few windy and cold days of training had given Europe hope that the conditions would do their thing, but the sun rose over a calm and flat strait of Whistling Straits and with the soft greens this impressive young team American began to make hay.
To tell the truth, the stands weren’t that loud, even if we could have done without the boos that greeted the European players.
Harrington desperately wanted his team to come out of the traps and correct the anomaly that now says Europe has failed to win an opening session for 15 years. But with world No.2 and 3 Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa overcoming an early deficit to gain control from Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland – ultimately running out of 3 and 2 winners – and Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick trying to resist Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger before succumbing 2 & 1, it was a dark start for their mission to keep the Cup.
In the last three matches, Europe has dominated the quartets 15.5-8.5 and that includes the 4-0 first session loss to Hazeltine five years ago. So this reversal hurt Harrington.
The Irishman seemed to stick with his plan, however, oddly leaving Garcia, along with Westwood, Fitzpatrick and Poulter for the afternoon’s four balls and bringing in Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Bernd Wieseberger and Shane Lowry. .
The latter was sent with his compatriot McIlroy, who was lucky to retain his place after this abject start.