KOHLER, United States (AFP) – The United States flexed their muscle at wind-whipped Whistling Straits Friday, dominating Europe 6-2 to launch their quest to regain the Ryder Cup.
Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele and world number two Dustin Johnson both put two points on the board for the hosts, who dominated the morning foursomes 3-1 then rode the momentum through a gritty afternoon of four-balls to take their biggest day-one lead in 46 years.
”It’s a great start,” US captain Steve Stricker said, but added: ”My message to the guys before I left is tomorrow is a new day.
”Let’s just go out tomorrow and try to win that first session again in the morning and pretend today never happened, and let’s keep our foot down and continue to play the golf that we know we can play.”
Europe led in three of the four afternoon contests but came up with just one point from two tied matches as the United States won another two.
Schauffele teamed with US PGA Tour player of the year Patrick Cantlay to beat Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter 5&3 in foursomes.
Then he and Johnson never trailed on the way to a 2&1 victory over Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger in four-balls.
As the conditions became increasingly difficult along the Lake Michigan shore, Tony Finau was making it look easy as he and Harris English powered to a 4&3 victory over McIlroy and Shane Lowry.
It marked the first time in six Ryder Cup appearances that Northern Ireland star McIlroy lost two matches in a single day.
McIlroy and Lowry were 1-up after a McIlroy rolled in a 30-foot eagle at the par-5 fifth, but it was all USA the rest of the way.
Finau drove the green at the sixth and two-putted from 15 feet for a birdie to tie the match. English birdied eight for a 1-up lead before Finau drained hole-winning putts of five feet, 15 feet and 11 feet at the ninth, 10th and 13th.
”I love pressure, I think you have to in Ryder Cup situations,” Finau said. ”I have a great time in these atmospheres and we had a great time out there.”
English and Finau revealed that the US team had been bolstered by a text message from Tiger Woods.
”We know he’s got our backs, so that’s really cool,” English said of the superstar who is still recovering from serious leg injuries suffered in February.
World number one Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton snatched half a point for Europe in dramatic style, with Hatton’s seven-foot birdie at the 18th delivering a tie against Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler in a four-balls match that was tight all the way.
Rahm, who teamed with Sergio Garcia for a 3&1 foursomes win over Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, birdied the fourth to put Europe ahead.
But DeChambeau belted a 417-yard tee shot at the fifth — cutting the inside corner of the sharp dogleg — then landed his approach four feet from the pin for an eagle that won the hole over Hatton’s birdie.
DeChambeau’s 21-foot birdie put the US 1-up at the eighth, but Rahm tied it up again with a birdie at the ninth and Scheffler restored the Americans’ lead with a birdie at 10.
Rahm had it all-square again with a birdie at 11, but DeChambeau’s par at 15 was enough to put the US 1-up, where they stayed until Hatton came through at the last.
”Obviously standing over that, I know it’s a massive putt and it’s going to help the team,” Hatton said. ”I didn’t hole any putts today. I just had to trust that one.”
But Europe’s Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland had to feel they let half a point get away as Thomas and Cantlay rallied late to tie a match the Europeans led 3-up through eight holes.
– ‘A lot to play for’ –
Thomas’s 32-foot birdie at the ninth reduced the deficit and he tied it at the par-5 16th with a 17-foot eagle.
Sergio Garcia notched a milestone amid Europe’s struggles, his foursomes win with Rahm tying him with Nick Faldo’s record of 23 match wins for Europe.
But Europe, winners of nine of the last 12 editions of the biennial match play event, face a tall order in trying to claw back in hostile territory.
Play continues Friday with another four foursomes and four four-balls matches before 12 singles matches on Sunday.
”There’s obviously still 20 points to play for,” Europe captain Padraig Harrington said. ”We’ve only just played for about 25 percent at this stage. It isn’t a good start, but there’s still a lot to play for.”