The USA came out ahead of a topsy-turvy morning fourballs session with an unlikely 3-1 lead as the Ryder Cup got underway in front of huge crowds at Le Golf National in Paris.
After a noisy start in front of the huge first tee grandstand – although perhaps not quite as atmospheric as previous, smaller opening holes – Europe were up in three games at one point and down in three soon after.
However a surprising turnaround with some good fortune in the top match gave the US a momentum charge and Europe continued its record of ot having won an opening session in a Ryder cup since 2006.
Morning fourballs (US names first)
Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka beat Justin Rose and Jon Rahm 1 hole.
An uncharacteristic misjudgement by Justin Rose cost Europe dearly in a top match where for all but the last three holes they seemed in complete control.
The Americans rode their luck just a little – three chip-ins and an outrageous escape from the water for a birdie by Tony Finau at the short 16th – but Rose and Jon Rahm should have closed out the game before the veteran’s mistake on the 18th, when his second shot from good position in the fairway went through the green and into the lake.
Rahm had missed the fairway and had to lay up, and couldn’t make the 20 footer he needed for a half in par, allowing Brooks Koepka’s four to snatch the point.
Rose’s chip-in from down the bank at the 12th had the Euros 2 up and he played the lead role with Rahm well until that closing stretch, where they were unable to get another birdie.
The Spanish rookie contributed three birdies on the front nine, but an eight-foot birdie putt that spun in a 360 degree horseshoe out of the hole at the 14th probably proved crucial.
Finau brought it level when his tee shot at the 16th luckily hit a retaining wood sleeper on the edge of the water and spun to three feet away.
Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler beat Rory McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen 4 and 2
Europe’s talisman Rory McIlroy didn’t have a single birdie – the only player in the morning session fourballs without one – and he and Thorbjorn Olesen won just one hole against the US duo of Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.
The win came on the eighth to take the Euros one-up, and at the point in the morning the home side were up in three of the four games on the course. But in half an hour they were down in three, however, as the Americans came out of an early slumber and Fowler won successive holes in birdie.
After a modest start, Johnson took up the pace on the back nine with birdies at 12 and 13, taking the US into a three-up lead, a frustrated McIlroy unable to respond. The World No 1 didn’t have to hole out a tee shot in close at the short 16th to clinch the point 4 and 2.
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas beat Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton 1 hole.
Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton rallied from three down to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas to get back to all-square but Thomas’ pinpoint approach at the difficult 15th allowed the US duo to edge a rollercoaster contest.
Spieth, out of form on the greens of late, was lights out on the front nine, with five birdies as the Americans went three-up after eight.
Thomas took the torch from his childhood friend with two birdies, but Casey was stirring with a run of four successive birdies, the latter two at the 11th and 12th sparking the comeback.
Hatton came in with a birdie at the 13th to bring it back to all-square, but Thomas matched the rookie’s birdie at the long 14th and then his second to 15 over the water got the US pair back in front.
Hatton had a birdie putt at the last from 18 feet to give the Euros what would have been a deserved half, but he missed and Spieth’s par clinched the US team’s third win.
Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods lost to Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari 3 and 1.
Thomas Bjorn had clearly invested much in the partnership of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, and they duly rescued Europe’s sole point from the morning session over Patrick Reed and a toiling Tiger Woods.
Woods had three birdies but was clearly struggling with stiffness after the turn and a passenger on the final few wholes, while Reed had a chip-in at the 10th but not much else of his magic from Gleneagles and Hazeltine.
That chip-in did have the Americans two-up as the two Europeans had been inconsistent, but on the homeward trip Molinari found successive birdies at the 11th and 12th, Fleetwood holed a birdie putt from the fringe at 15 to move ahead and then drained a long one for a two at the short 16th as the Europeans closed it out.