U.S. takes early 3-1 lead at 43rd Ryder Cup
As thousands surrounded the first tee at Whistling Straits, the 43rd Ryder Cup got underway Friday morning in chilly Wisconsin. Attempting to buck the recent trend of European dominance, the U.S. looked to get off to a strong start in front of partisan crowds. They did just that, taking three of the four Foursome matches from the opening session to build a 3-1 lead.
Highlighted by standout performances from Ryder Cup rookies Collin Morikawa, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, the Americans got off to a (nearly) ideal start. Here’s how the opening session of the 43rd Ryder Cup unfolded:
Friday Morning Foursomes: U.S. 3, Europe 1
Match 1: Sergio Garcia/Jon Rahm (Europe) def. Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas (U.S.), 3 and 1
It was a nervy start for both sides as Garcia found a fairway bunker off the tee and Thomas failed to convert a makeable birdie opportunity on the opening hole. Nevertheless, the two teams quickly got their feet underneath themselves. It was a back-and-forth battle early, as birdies were traded until the putters ran cold for the U.S. Team.
Heading to the back nine 2 down, the childhood friends from the United States were unable to make up any ground on the Spanish duo. Between Garcia’s pinpoint accuracy with his irons and Rahm’s red-hot putter, the Europeans were able to turn a tight match into a full point.
Closing the match out on the 17th hole, despite Spieth’s best efforts with a heroic flop shot, the world No. 1 and the all-time Ryder Cup points leader gave the first official point of the 43rd Ryder Cup to Team Europe.
Match 2: Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa (U.S.) def. Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland (Europe), 3 and 2
A pair of rookie-veteran pairings faced off in a highly anticipated second match. An opening birdie courtesy of Morikawa’s putter put the first American flag on the leaderboard. But that lead was short-lived as the Europeans tied the match on the par-3 third hole, a common theme throughout the front nine.
Dodging numerous near-birdies from Casey and Hovland, the U.S. Team took a 1-up lead into the back nine. Extending the lead to 3-up after kick-in birdies on the par-4 11th and the short par-3 12th, the U.S. side seemingly captured all the momentum at Whistling Straits.
The Europeans felt a glimmer of hope down the stretch, but it wasn’t to be as the American duo kept the pressure on. Putting the finishing touches on the match with a birdie on the par-5 16th, Johnson and Morikawa collected a total of seven birdies and the first point for the home squad.
Match 3: Daniel Berger/Brooks Koepka (U.S.) def. Matthew Fitzpatrick/Lee Westwood (Europe), 2 and 1
A short miss from Westwood on the opening hole told the tale of this match, as all four players struggled at times on the greens. Both sides gave themselves plenty of birdie looks to begin the day, with the American side making the most of their opportunities early.
The Americans led for most of the front nine, but when Koepka missed a short par putt on No. 9, the match was tied heading into the home half. Immediately righting the wrong from the previous hole, the two-time PGA champion converted a close birdie opportunity on No. 10 to reclaim the lead before setting up Berger on the 11th to do the same.
Widening the lead to 2-up, there would be no looking back for the U.S. Team as the former Florida State teammates never trailed in this one. The last match of the morning to finish up, a bogey on the par-3 17th was enough to tie the hole and give the U.S. Team a 2-and-1 victory and a 3 to 1 advantage heading into the afternoon Four-Ball matches.
Match 4: Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele (U.S.) def. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter (Europe), 5 and 3
Early and often, the experienced rookies poured it on the European Team. Already 4 up through the first four holes, the situation went from bad to worse for McIlroy and Poulter when Schauffele converted an unlikely birdie from outside 35 feet on the par-5 fifth.
With McIlroy missing his subsequent birdie look from inside 10 feet, the U.S. increased their lead to 5-up through five. The Americans were on cruise control from there until hitting a speed bump when Cantlay’s approach on the par-4 10th fell short, trickling back to his feet.
Gift-wrapping two holes in a row to the Europeans, Schauffele quickly halted any momentum that may have gone the other way. Following McIlroy on both occasions, the Ryder Cup rookie threw darts with a wedge in hand on the par-3 12th and again on the par-4 13th to remain 3 up with five holes to play.
Cantlay followed suit on the next hole, pushing the lead back up to four with four holes remaining. With the Americans in closer, Poulter failed to convert the European’s birdie opportunity on No. 15, ensuring a 5-and-3 victory for the U.S. Team and their second point of the morning session.