September 24, 2021
By Steve Keating
KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) – Holders Europe put the first point on the board as the eagerly-awaited Ryder Cup began on Friday but a partisan home crowd roared the United States into a 3-1 lead after the opening foursomes at a sun-drenched Whistling Straits.
Sergio Garcia, Europe’s leading Ryder Cup points scorer, joined fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm to beat Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in a high-quality duel alongside a sparkling Lake Michigan as the first Ryder Cup since 2018 got going.
With American red dominating the scoreboard, the pressure was squarely on Garcia and world number one Rahm but they responded in superb fashion with Garcia’s long birdie putt at the 15th leaving them three up with three to play.
Thomas made a birdie to reduce the arrears on the 16th but struck a wayward tee shot on the par-three 17th.
Spieth made a remarkable recovery from a vertical bank below the green but Thomas missed the putt to hand the European pair a 3&1 victory to seal first of the 14 points Padraig Harrington’s visitors require to retain the trophy.
With a partisan and vociferous crowd cheering on the hosts, Steve Stricker’s American pairings gelled superbly elsewhere to dominate the early action and put the U.S. ahead going into the fourballs matches later on Friday.
In the second match Dustin Johnson and Open champion Collin Morikawa beat Paul Casey and rookie Viktor Hovland on the par-five 16th hole as Morikawa made a birdie for a 3&1 victory.
Brooks Koepka and American debutant Daniel Berger proved too solid for Europe’s Ryder Cup stalwart Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick, claiming a 2&1 win.
In the fourth match of the session Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele and in-form Patrick Cantlay dominated Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter having won the first five holes.
The European pair did offer some resistance after an error-strewn start but they could not prevent a 5&3 defeat.
With the sun rising over Lake Michigan, boos welcomed Spanish duo Garcia and Rahm to the amphitheatre-like opening tee box as the biennial competition got off to an electric start.
More than 40,000 golf fans are expected to pile into Whistling Straits but the majority will be waving American flags with COVID-19 travel restrictions keeping most of the European supporters at home after the event was delayed by a year.
The hostile welcome was nothing new for Garcia who is playing in his 10th Ryder Cup and the 41-year-old took everything in his stride to take his Ryder Cup tally to 26.5.
In doing so he also equalled Nick Faldo’s record for matches won at the Ryder Cup, moving to 23.
“It felt great. I knew who I had on my side (Rahm) and I wouldn’t change him for anyone. He made every putt he had to make,” he said. “It was a good match and we had to play very well. Very happy to get a point for Europe.”
While Europe will be disappointed with their opening morning, they also trailed 3-1 at the same stage in Paris three years ago before hitting back to win the match comfortably.
(Writing by Martyn Herman and Steve Keating, Editing by Ken Ferris)
Source Link Golf – Europe post first point but U.S. move 3-1 ahead after Ryder Cup foursomes