Europe are 3-1 down after the first session of the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits – the same as in Paris three years ago.
The big difference is not only was the first session this time foursomes – supposed to be Europe’s forte – but also the benign conditions alongside Lake Michigan allowed the Americans to score freely and dominate.
The tally of birdies from the Americans was 23 to just 13 from Europe – and six of those were from the only match they won.
The biggest blow to Europe’s captain Padraig Harrington was the routing of Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy in the bottom match against Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.
One of Europe’s banner pairings were five down after five holes, losing two of them to pars. They steadied the ship a little, but the Americans were able to coast to to a 5&3 win.
Europe’s sole bright spot was the downing of the America’s golden pairing of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas by Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm. This was the one match where Europe outscored and out-putted the US, with Spieth looking uncommonly out of form on the greens.
In the other two matches the US fully capitalised on calm conditions after two days of blustery practice.
Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm bt Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas 3&1
How did @JordanSpieth …
A) Not fall over?
B) Get it that close?pic.twitter.com/jxi11xBCN3
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 24, 2021
The USA’s reliables were exactly that tee to green, but they struggled on the greens against the new Spanish Armada of Garcia and Rahm.
Thomas’ miss of a makeable eight footer on the first set the tone. Although the US won the second with a birdie four, Rahm replied with birdie putts of 12 feet at the third and a monster 40 footer at the fourth.
The World No 1 found the lake at the long fifth to allow the US duo back to all-square. But after a half on the eighth the Spaniards grabbed control.
Rahm made birdie from outside Spieth on the 7th, and he made birdie putts at the 8th and 10th to take a commanding three-up lead.
The US had chances to cut into the lead before Thomas finally holed a putt at the 13th. But Garcia holed from 30 feet at the 15th and Thomas missed from well inside him at 15 and it was dormie three.
The Europeans made a mess of the long 16th to lose it to a birdie four. But even Spieth’s miracle recovery from almost a vertical lie down the bank on the left of the 17th green couldn’t stop the Spaniards from putting up the first point.
Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland lost to Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson 3&2
— Ryder Cup (@rydercup) September 24, 2021
Rookie Collin Morikawa took time to find his feet, but Dustin Johnson was in solid form until the open champion got settled in.
Johnson’s recovery shots got the US out of minor trouble on the first two holes, but Morikawa’s par miss on the fourth had the Euros one-up.
But then the Americans had birdies at the 6th and 7th to take the lead, birdies at 11 and 12 took them to a decisive three-up lead.
Hovland’s recovery from the cliff and brilliant par putt to win gave the Europeans some faint hope, but Casey missed a decent chance at the 15th and a solid birdie wrapped it up for the US pair on the 16th. The US pair were six-under for the morning’s play, the best of anyone on the course.
Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick lost to Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger 2&1
— Ryder Cup (@rydercup) September 24, 2021
Westwood and Fitzpatrick never led in the match and recorded just one birdie but stuck around to take it as far as the 17th green.
Birdies at the second and third gave the US the early advantage, but Europe stayed in there and Koepka’s miss from close range at the ninth got them square at the turn.
But back came Koepka and Berger immediately with wins at 10 and 11. Westwood and Fitzpatrick just couldn’t force their way back into the game after that.
The veteran missed a 12 foot chance to extend the game down the 18th and a half in bogeys closed it out 2&1 for the US.
Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy lost to Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay 5&3
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 24, 2021
A appalling start by a pairing Padraig Harrington must have thought were a solid choice for foursomes meant a morale-sapping loss in the bottom match.
Both Europeans were at fault, McIlroy’s awful pitch at the first and then knifing a bunker shot across the green at the second, Poulter putting him in the hole with a poor second.
Schauffele birdied the short third, the Europeans made an almighty mess of four and then the Olympic champion drained a 40-footer at the fifth. McIlroy missed from 15 feet for the half and the Heroes of Medinah were five down after five.
Although a birdie on 10 and par on 11 gave some relief for the Europeans, they needed good putts from Poulter for halves at 12 and 13.
Schauffele took control for the US duo and his play won both 14 and 15 to finish out a dominating victory.