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    Friday, September 29, 2023

    Europe Sweeps Opening Session in Ryder Cup to Put USA in 4-0 Hole

    Europe gave the Americans a rude welcome and a harsh reminder why it has been 30 years since they last won the Ryder Cup away from home, sweeping the opening session for the first time before a delirious crowd at Marco Simone.

    So thorough was this beating Friday morning that no match reached the 18th hole.

    Jon Rahm holed a 30-foot putt from off the second green and hit a tee shot that banged off the bottom of the pin at the par-3 seventh. Viktor Hovland got his side going early, chipping off the tight grass of the fringe, over a ridge and into the cup on the opening hole.

    Rory McIlroy delivered the final dagger, a tee shot to 2 feet on the par-3 17th hole as he and Tommy Fleetwood — “Fleetwood Mac” for this Ryder Cup — handed Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele their first loss in foursomes.

    European captain Luke Donald looked like a genius by leading off with foursomes, the more difficult format of alternate shot. Europe has started the Ryder Cup at home with fourballs every time since 1993, which also was the last time Europe lost at home.

    He felt his side statistically was stronger in foursomes and he wanted a fast start. McIlroy said Donald had Europe play three-hole matches in practice to develop a sense of urgency.

    Whatever the plan, it worked to near perfection.

    “All week, all we’ve been talking about is getting off to fast starts ... something Luke has drilled into us,” McIlroy said. “We were ready to go from the first tee shot, obviously, as you can see in how everyone played.”

    U.S. captain Zach Johnson also had a plan for the five sessions, only this beating was so thorough it brought to mind what heavyweight Mike Tyson once said of Evander Holyfield. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

    The Americans were bloodied, all right. They never led at any point in any of the four matches.

    Johnson’s plan included sitting Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, a partnership that went 3-1 outside Paris in the last Ryder Cup in Europe. Also sitting was PGA champion Brooks Koepka and U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark. That’s a combined 11 career majors on the bench.

    “It was just the first go-around here. We’ll have to make some adjustments across the board. We’ll be fine. Not sweating it,” Schauffele said. “I’m not worried. Our team is deep. These boys will come out hungry these next matches.”

    The Americans next had try to keep it close in the afternoon fourballs, four new partnerships for both teams, and all 12 players assured of getting in on the action.

    Schauffele and Cantlay had been 5-0 in foursomes at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and it looked like their match would go down to the wire. Europe was 1 up when it got out of position on the 15th and McIlroy hit a wedge to 20 feet for a par putt. Cantlay had 25 feet for birdie.

    Cantlay ran his putt about 4 feet by the hole, and then it flipped — Fleetwood holed perhaps the biggest putt of their match, while Schauffele missed the 4-footer. Instead of the match being all square with three holes to play, Europe was 2 up and on its way to another point.

    “Waiting for a moment like that all day,” Fleetwood said. “It’s just one of those Ryder Cup moments, really, and that’s what we’re playing for.”

    Scheffler hit the opening tee shot, but not before one fan shouted, “You stink, Scottie,” as he was getting ready to swing. There was plenty of booing, typical of the Ryder Cup, and Europe heard far worse in their trips to Whistling Straits and Hazeltine.

    Scheffler and Sam Burns fell to 0-3-1 in their partnership at two cups, and they were able to experience the full Rahm.

    Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton were 2 up at the turn and in trouble — shin-high rough on the left, more rough on the right and still short of the green on the par-4 10th after three shots. Rahm had to get it up-and-down from 70 feet away to have any chance of not losing the hole. And then he holed the chip, and Scheffler had to make an 8-footer to avoid falling further behind.

    Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka picked up Europe’s other point, a 4-and-3 victory over Collin Morikawa and Rickie Fowler. Europe was 4 up at the turn as the Americans managed only one birdie and four bogeys.

    “Giving away holes is the worst feeling, and we just did that too much,” Morikawa said. “And we still came down all the way to 17. We were fighting, but nothing was finding the hole.” -AP

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    Item Reviewed: Europe Sweeps Opening Session in Ryder Cup to Put USA in 4-0 Hole Rating: 5 Reviewed By: BrandIconImage
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