Darren Clarke’s faith in Belgian Thomas Pieters showed glimmers of being fulfilled, but his great friend Lee Westwood suffered one of his worst mornings in his long Ryder Cup career as the European pair were thrashed 5 and 4 by Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar in the morning foursomes.
The in-form Johnson, the World No 2, had an outstanding morning but Westwood and Pieters played the front nine at Hazeltine National in 40 strokes, with surprisingly the veteran of 10 Ryder Cup contests being the passenger for most of them.
It had been rumoured that Clarke planned to play Masters champion Danny Willett with Westwood before changing his mind at the last minute after Willett’s difficult week caused by his brother’s article in a magazine criticising US golf fans. That was denied by the European captain, who said he wanted Pieters in the game right away.
The young Belgian didn’t however hit the opening tee shot, Westwood carving it into a bunker as the Europeans then lost the first two holes in pars.
Johnson was the standout performer of the US duo and holed a birdie putt at the fifth to take he and Kuchar to three-up, which became four when Westwood drove into the lake on the right of the seventh fairway.
Johnson birdied the short eighth to put his team five-up, and although Pieters wrested a hole back at the ninth and holed out for birdie and a half at the long at the 11th, there was no way back into the match.
The US pair won the short 13th and took the point with a half in birdies at 14.
“We played at Medinah and had some success,” pointed out Kuchar. “Anyone could partner Dustin and have great success, playing off where this guy drives it is so much fun.”
Johnson, who was 3-0 at Medinah in a losing cause before missing Glenegales because of a suspension, said the fit of the partnership was the key.
“Our games complement each other,” he said. “And on home turf, the fans just kind of bring out the best in you.”