Sept. 21-26, 2021 Whistling Straits, Kohler, WI
43rd Ryder Cup - Afternoon Fourball Matches
Photo Credit: Getty Images

With the home crowd out in full force, the U.S. Ryder Cup Team built on an early advantage with another solid showing in the afternoon Four-Ball matches. Holding a slight edge in this format since 2008, the Americans matched the 3-1 score from the morning session to build a commanding 6-2 lead – marking their largest Day 1 advantage since the Ryder Cup began including Continental Europe in 1979.

Here’s how the second session of matches played out at the 43rd Ryder Cup, where the wind kicked up at Whistling Straits but the Americans didn’t slow down while building their largest Day 1 lead in 46 years:

TOTAL SCORE: U.S. 6, Europe 2

Friday Afternoon Four-Balls: U.S. 3 – Europe 1

Match 5: Dustin Johnson/Xander Schauffele (U.S.) def. Paul Casey/Bernd Wiesberger (Europe), 2 and 1

Winners in the morning session, albeit with different partners, Johnson and Schauffele picked up where they left off. With Wiesberger in close for birdie on No. 1, it appeared as if Europe would start the afternoon with a quick lead. From just inside 40 feet, Schauffele quickly put an end to those thoughts as the Americans kept the pedal to the metal.

Another long birdie from Schauffele on the par-3 third was followed with one by Johnson on the par-5 fifth, pushing the U.S. margin to 3-up. While Wiesberger and Casey did their best to mount a comeback, cutting the lead to 1-up by the halfway point, the fast start from the Americans was too much to overcome.

Back-to-back birdies from Johnson, the eldest statesman on the U.S. Team, gave the Americans a 3-up lead once again, much to the delight of nearby spectator Michael Jordan. Steady golf the rest of the way was all Johnson and Schauffele needed, as the duo closed out the Europeans on the par-3 17th in a relatively stress-free match.

Match 6: Bryson DeChambeau/Scottie Scheffler (U.S.) vs. Jon Rahm/Tyrrell Hatton (Europe), Tied

I’m still trying to wrap my head around DeChambeau’s drive off the fifth tee, which traveled a whopping 417 yards and set up an eagle. Back and forth and filled with fireworks, both teams brought their A-games in this match. Carding three birdies in the opening five holes, it was Hatton, the passionate Englishman, who carried the European side early.

Failing to convert short looks on the par-4 sixth and difficult par-3 seventh, Hatton and Rahm left the door open for the Americans. Just wide enough for his frame, DeChambeau marched on through, making an unlikely birdie on the difficult eighth, getting to 4 under on his own ball and grabbing the Americans’ first lead in the process. However, on the very next hole, Rahm would connect for his first birdie of the session, as the two teams went to the homeward half tied.

Turning into an instant classic right before our eyes, it was Scheffler, then Rahm, then Hatton, then yes, DeChambeau each making their marks on this match. A par-save from DeChambeau on the par-4 15th gave the U.S. Team the late lead, but the Europeans continued to apply pressure.

Tying the par-5 16th with birdies and after Hatton narrowly missed one on the following hole, this was the first match of the 43rd Ryder Cup to reach the closing hole at Whistling Straits. The Europeans answered the call, giving themselves two great birdie opportunities. Rahm’s effort just skirted by, but Hatton’s was dead-center the whole way, giving the Europeans a critical half-point – and possibly a pulse heading into Saturday.

Match 7: Tony Finau/Harris English (U.S.) def. Rory McIlroy/Shane Lowry (Europe), 4 and 3

Trading punches for the early part of the front nine, the lid was finally blown off the hole when McIlroy made an eagle on the par-5 fifth. But the Americans would counter with three birdies in the next four holes, grabbing a 2-up lead as Finau found his touch on the greens and reveled in the home crowd’s cheers before making his way to the back nine.

Playing in his first Ryder Cup on U.S. soil after making his debut outside Paris in 2018, Finau was the man of the match and continued to soak in the moment. A birdie on the short par-4 10th extended the U.S. lead to 3 up, pushing the two-time PGA champion from Northern Ireland to the cusp of dropping two matches in a single day for the first time in his Ryder Cup career.

Another Finau birdie on the par-4 13th all but sealed the victory for the Americans, as they led 4 up with five holes to play. Finau saved par to end the match two holes later, finishing the afternoon with six birdies and a point for the U.S. Team alongside English, who got on the board in his first Ryder Cup match.

Match 8: Justin Thomas/Patrick Cantlay (U.S.) vs. Tommy Fleetwood/Viktor Hovland (Europe), Tied

It was a welcome sight to see Thomas walk in his first birdie opportunity of the session on the opening hole. With the Americans 1 up through two, the first man from Norway to don a Ryder Cup uniform put his mark on this match. Winning the next two holes, Europe quickly went from 1 down to 1 up.

Fleetwood then joined in on the fun, courtesy of a birdie on the par-4 sixth and then another on the par-4 eighth, and Europe’s lead was extended to 3 up. With the match slipping away from the Americans, Thomas delivered a blow by connecting for birdie from 32 feet on No. 9 to cut into the European advantage, thus igniting one of the loudest roars of the week.

However, the putter that came to the Englishman’s aid on the front nine abandoned him on the back half. Narrowly missing two short birdie chances on Nos. 10 and 11, the Americans smelled blood in the water. As Cantlay typically does, he rose to the occasion, striking his tee-shot on the par-3 12th to tap-in range, cutting the European 2-up lead in half.

The match remained such until the teams arrived at the par-5 16th, where once again Thomas delivered. This time it was an eagle along the coast of Lake Michigan. Pumping up the crowd on the way to the 17th tee, Cantlay and Thomas had finally clawed their way back to where they began hours earlier.

Trading pars at the difficult par-3, the quartet trekked to the closing hole to decide the anchor match of the afternoon session. With birdie chips from Cantlay and Fleetwood running wide and putts from Hovland and Thomas falling short, a tie was the end result, solidifying a 6-2 U.S. overnight lead.

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