Ryder Cup: United States race clear as Europe suffer dire Straits on opening day

By Sports Desk September 24, 2021

The United States snatched their biggest opening-day lead at a Ryder Cup since 1975 as they powered 6-2 ahead of Europe at Whistling Straits.

All of Europe's worst fears were realised on Friday as the cup holders left themselves with everything to do over the weekend.

Rory McIlroy, rather than proving a talisman, suffered two heavy defeats, with world number one Jon Rahm's excellence not enough to prevent a landslide as Steve Stricker's American team dominated.

Rahm and Sergio Garcia put the first point of the day on the board, beating Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, but the home side bossed the rest of the morning foursomes to seize a 3-1 lead. Two more wins in the afternoon, and two halved matches, meant another 3-1 session for the USA, who will now look to assure themselves of a big lead heading into Sunday's singles.

There were shots that caught the eye, including an astonishing chip up a steep bank from Spieth in the morning and a 417-yard bomb from Bryson DeChambeau in the afternoon fourballs.

But it was consistent quality from the US team that put them in such a commanding position, with Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele both winning twice, including as a pair in the fourballs.

Johnson said: "Today was a great day for both me and Xander, and we both won our matches in the morning and this afternoon. Couldn't have been any better."

Patrick Cantlay, the PGA Tour Player of the Year, played with Schauffele in the morning as they trounced McIlroy and Ian Poulter 5 and 3, and he was then part of the last match of the afternoon, as he and Thomas came from three behind to halve against Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.

"For sure I was feeding off JT a little bit, he was carrying me around all day today, he played great," Cantlay said. "Three and one in both sessions, that's a great start. Hopefully we can keep the pedal down and keep doing more of the same."

Europe's fortunes were summed up when Fleetwood hooked his tee shot at 16 into Lake Michigan, with Thomas holing a silky eagle putt to win that hole.

There was a huge boost for Europe, however, when Tyrrell Hatton holed a clutch putt at 18, winning the hole as he and Rahm snatched a half point against Scottie Scheffler and DeChambeau.

Rahm said: "I'm not going to lie: when I hit my bunker shot at 16 and we both had over 15 feet for birdie and they were both within 10 feet, things did look dark, to say the least. Luckily I was able to roll mine in and I told him [Hatton] that we can finish strong and still get this done.

"Not many people are as clutch as he is under pressure and he showed it right here so hopefully this gives him a lot of confidence for tomorrow and we get the ball rolling."


Shot of the day

Spieth conjured up an incredible shot on the 17th after playing partner Thomas had seemingly left him in an impossible position.

Spieth somehow chipped to around four feet away from the pin from the bottom of a steep bank in thick grass beyond railway sleepers. Spieth hurtled down to the edge of the water following his great escape, but his exploits were not enough to prevent Spanish pair Rahm and Garcia claiming the first point of the competition.

The three-time major champion said: "it's kind of one of those shots that you practice as a kid for fun, and you don't ultimately want to have it. And the chances of it going there, you could roll a thousand balls off the green, and it's not going it stay where it was.

"I hit like a 52-degree because a 60 might have gone over the back of my head and just tried to flick it right underneath and hit it as hard as I could, as high as I could."

Player of the day

At his fifth Ryder Cup, Johnson played like he is sick of that losing feeling, having known it three times already. He and Schauffele were a strong pairing in the afternoon, while Johnson guided Collin Morikawa through the morning foursomes. As McIlroy floundered for Europe elsewhere on the course, the US team had a seasoned member of their team step up and lead.

Chipping in

McIlroy: "Xander, Patrick, played wonderful, and Tony – I haven't seen Tony putt as good as that in a long time. When you have got a couple of pairs like that on form, on a difficult golf course where it's sort of hard to make birdies and they go on runs, if you're not quite 100 per cent on top of your game, it's tough. We can come back from 6-2."

Johnson: "Obviously we have a lot of support on our side, and MJ [Michael Jordan] is out there, he's a huge supporter of the Ryder Cup and huge supporter of golf, but it's nice to see him come out and support us."

Tony Finau: "You've just got to enjoy it. All these people out here cheering us on, that's the biggest thing. You have to enjoy it. I learned that in Paris, and the more you can just have fun with it, it seems to keep you loose, and I was able to roll the rock nicely today."

A little birdie told me...

Garcia is Europe's top points-scorer in Ryder Cup history and the Spaniard matched Nick Faldo's record tally of 23 match wins when he and compatriot Rahm drew first blood in the morning session.

Powerhouse  DeChambeau hit an astonishing 417-yard drive on the 581-yard par-five fifth hole, setting up an eagle to put himself and Scheffler one up in their four-ball contest with Rahm and Hatton.

Friday's foursomes results

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (Eur) beat Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA) 3 and 1
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) beat Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland (Eur) 3 and 2
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger (USA) beat Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (Eur) 2 and 1
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (USA) beat Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter (Eur) 5 and 3

Friday's four-ball results

Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele (USA) beat Bernd Wiesberger and Paul Casey (Eur) 2 and 1
Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau (USA) halved with Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton (Eur)
Harris English and Tony Finau (USA) beat Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry 4 and 3
Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay (USA) halved with Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood (Eur)

Related items

  • I don’t think LIV golfers should be on European Ryder Cup team – Rory McIlroy I don’t think LIV golfers should be on European Ryder Cup team – Rory McIlroy

    Rory McIlroy has reiterated his opposition to LIV Golf players being allowed to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup.

    World number two Jon Rahm believes the likes of Sergio Garcia, with whom he formed a successful partnership in 2021, should be able to compete in Rome and said he was sad that “politics have gotten in the way” of the biennial event.

    Garcia is the leading points scorer in Ryder Cup history, but made himself ineligible by resigning from the DP World Tour in the wake of increased sanctions being imposed for playing LIV Golf events without permission.

    American players remain eligible despite being banned or resigning from the PGA Tour in the wake of joining the Saudi-funded circuit, with Brooks Koepka set to qualify automatically following his victory in the US PGA Championship.

    “I certainly think Brooks deserves to be on the United States team,” McIlroy said in his pre-tournament presser ahead of the Memorial Tournament.

    “I think with how he’s played, I mean, he’s second in the US standings, (having) only played two counting events.

    “I don’t know if there’s anyone else on the LIV roster that would make the team on merit and how they’re playing. But Brooks is definitely a guy that I think deserves to be on the US team.

    “But I have different feelings about the European team and the other side and sort of how that has all transpired and, yeah, I don’t think any of those guys should be a part of the European team.”

    McIlroy finished in a tie for seventh behind Koepka at Oak Hill, despite struggling with his long game, but the lack of faith in his “biggest weapon” may not prove as much of an issue at Muirfield Village.

    “I can’t remember a time where I felt so uncomfortable over the ball for four days,” McIlroy said.

    “The golf course allowed me to manage it. There was only two holes I felt at Oak Hill that really penalised big misses, which was six and seven. So you take those two holes out of it and it was what I would describe as a bogey golf course.

    “It was very hard to make anything worse than a bogey. So you hit it in the rough off the tee, you got these openings into greens, you can run it up into the openings, make your par and move on.

    “I needed to go back home and work on some things and, yeah, feeling a lot better about it, not fighting the club face quite as much. Feel a little bit more free, which is obviously a nice feeling.

    “I think the one thing here, if you look at the recent winners, maybe apart from Jon (Rahm), they have all been sort of like medium-length hitters.

    “I only hit four or five drivers on this golf course so it takes the driver out of my hands a lot. A lot of fairways bottleneck at like 330, 340 (yards) so the biggest weapon in my bag isn’t quite the weapon that it is at some other golf courses.

    “I have played okay here and had some decent finishes, but I guess it sort of surprises me with the four par fives and the way the golf course sets up that I haven’t at least had a real chance to win here.”

  • Brendan Lawlor and Kim Moore excited for next week’s Scandinavian Mixed event Brendan Lawlor and Kim Moore excited for next week’s Scandinavian Mixed event

    G4D Open champions Brendan Lawlor and Kim Moore will compete in the inaugural Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed event next week.

    The tournament at Ullna Golf and Country Club from June 5-6 will see five male players and five female players competing for the same trophy on the same course for the first time.

    Lawlor, who edged out Kipp Popert to win the inaugural G4D Open at Woburn earlier this month, will be joined in Sweden by Popert – the current number one on the World Rankings for Golfers with a Disability (WR4GD) – Juan Postigo Arce, Kurtis Barkley and home favourite Rasmus Lia.

    “I’m very excited for the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed,” Lawlor said. “The fact that there’s a whole diverse range of disabilities and it’s a mixed field between five men and five women, it’s absolutely game-changing.

    “We’ve gained some massive strides in the men’s side of the game and in disability golf, and I think we’re going to gain some massive strides in the women’s side of the game.”

    Moore, who won the female category of the G4D Open by four shots, is joined by Aimi Bullock, Julia Bowen, Fiona Gray and Jennifer Sraga.

    “I feel with the growing number of new golfers being women, it’s extremely important for the G4D Tour to be opening up the event to both male and female golfers,” Moore said.

    “The exposure that this event gets will be huge in motivating and inspiring others with disabilities to give golf a chance.”

  • Emiliano Grillo claims second PGA tour title in Texas Emiliano Grillo claims second PGA tour title in Texas

    Emiliano Grillo won his second PGA tour title after he edged out Adam Schenk in a double playoff hole while English golfer Harry Hall finished tied third in Texas on Sunday.

    The Argentinian was two strokes clear and looked primed to take out the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Golf Course in Fort Worth.

    But the 30-year-old hit a double-bogey on the last hole, providing an opening for Schenk to come back into contention, seeking to win his first PGA Tour title.

    Grillo hit his drive into a small stream on the final hole which took the ball back 150 yards before stopping against a rock.

    He decided to take a penalty stroke and landed a two-putt from 20 yards to tie with Schenk.

    Schenk made par on the final hole while English PGA Tour rookie Harry Hall needed a par on the final hole to compete in the playoff.

    Hall hit a bogey on the last hole after landing his drive into the water and finished tied in third with world number one American Scott Scheffler on 7-under.

    Grillo struck a five-foot birdie putt to claim the title on the second playoff hole to get his first tour win in more than seven years, finishing the tournament on eight-under with 68 on his final day.

    Grillo’s last win was in Napa in 2015 and has had four top 10 finishes this season.

    American Adam Schenk finished second place for the second time this season and is still pushing for his first tour win.

    Hall, 25, was leading after the first and second day but failed to hang on to the lead with two birdies and five bogeys on Sunday.

    Englishmen Aaron Rei and Justin Rose finished tied 12th on three-under.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.