US takes 4-0 lead against Europe on first day of Ryder Cup

US takes 4-0 lead against Europe on first day of Ryder Cup
Rory McIlroy reacts after a shot on the 7th during the morning Foursomes Matches against Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler of the US. Picture: AP

Update 5.48pm: Europe will have to create history to retain the Ryder Cup after being whitewashed by the United States in the opening session at Hazeltine.

Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose and Open champion Henrik Stenson surrendered their unbeaten record to Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, before Lee Westwood and rookie Thomas Pieters were thrashed by Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson then won five holes in succession to beat Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer 4&2, before Europe's misery was completed as Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan lost on the 18th to Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.

Perhaps fittingly, the last time the United States won an opening session 4-0 was when the late Arnold Palmer was captain in 1975, albeit against Great Britain and Ireland, and Palmer's bag from that contest had been displayed on the first tee in tribute to the seven-time major winner after his death on Sunday.

The United States have never lost a Ryder Cup on home soil after winning the opening session, leaving European captain Darren Clarke with a massive task to rally his side for the afternoon fourballs.

Clarke kept faith with Rose and Stenson in the first match as they took on Spieth and Reed again, with Rafa Cabrera Bello drafted in to partner fellow Spaniard Garcia against Ryan Moore and JB Holmes.

Masters champion Danny Willett partnered Kaymer against Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, with the final match seeing McIlroy alongside Pieters against US Open champion Johnson and Kuchar.

After winning all three of their matches together at Gleneagles two years ago, it was no surprise that Rose and Stenson were sent out first for the second Ryder Cup in succession.

The identity of their opponents was not a shock either, two-time major winner Spieth and Reed having also gone unbeaten on their debuts in Scotland with two and a half points from three matches.

Three birdies in the first seven holes put Spieth and Reed in command and although a par on the ninth was enough to reduce the deficit - only after Stenson was made to hole from inside two feet - the European pair's sole birdie of the day on the 11th was matched by their opponents.

In front of a raucous crowd Reed's birdie on the 16th then sealed the win and he said: "I live for those kind of moments, having the whole crowd behind me gets me going. It was an awesome feeling."

Spieth added: "We knew months ago Rose and Stenson would be thrown out first and we told the captain we'd love to hit the first shots. We got off to a hot start. We both believe in each other's games."

Westwood and Pieters were in trouble from the moment they bogeyed the first two holes and were five down after eight, their only win of the day coming with a par on the ninth after the Americans three-putted from long range.

Kaymer and Garcia were then made to pay for missing good chances to punish a nervous start from their opponents, who birdied the 13th, 14th and 16th - and won the 15th with a par - to come back from one down after 11 holes.

But arguably the biggest blow came as McIlroy and Sullivan twice squandered a two-hole lead in match two, the second coming after birdies on the 13th and 14th.

The European pair bogeyed the 15th and lost the next to a birdie before Sullivan, who had been superb, found water with his tee shot on the 17th.

Update 4pm: Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose and Open champion Henrik Stenson put their unbeaten record on the line as the 41st Ryder Cup got under way at Hazeltine on Friday.

After winning all three of their matches together at Gleneagles two years ago, it was no surprise that Rose and Stenson were sent out first for the second Ryder Cup in succession.

And the identity of their opponents was not a shock either, two-time major winner Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed having also gone unbeaten on their debuts in Scotland with two and a half points from three matches.

After a video tribute to the late Arnold Palmer briefly interrupted the thumping rock music and partisan chants from the packed grandstands, Rose and Reed somehow held their nerve to find the opening fairway in misty conditions.

But after good approaches from their playing partners, both men were unable to convert birdie attempts from around 12 feet to keep the opening match all square.

World number three Rory McIlroy and rookie Andy Sullivan were up against Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in match two, with Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer facing Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson.

USA vice captain Tiger Woods walks on the fairway during day one of the 41st Ryder Cup. Pictures: AP
USA vice captain Tiger Woods walks on the fairway during day one of the 41st Ryder Cup. Pictures: AP

However, there was no place in the final match for Masters champion Danny Willett, with fellow rookie Thomas Pieters preferred to partner veteran Lee Westwood - in his 10th consecutive appearance - against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

Willett was caught up in a storm following a column written by his brother Peter which described American fans as a "braying mob of imbeciles" - among other derogatory things - and his form appeared to suffer.

In his final practice round on Thursday the world number 10 hit one spectator on the head at the second hole and produced a number of other wayward shots which prompted several on-course discussions between captain Darren Clarke and his vice-captains.

The home side drew first blood as Spieth holed from 12 feet for birdie on the second and three feet on the par-five third to move into an early two-hole lead.

But there was better news for Europe in matches two and three after McIlroy and Sullivan combined to save par from a greenside bunker to win the fourth, while a par on the second was also good enough to take Garcia and Kaymer into the lead.

Pieters looked understandably nervous and was not helped by Westwood driving into a fairway bunker on the first, the resulting bogey leaving the European pair facing an early deficit.

Rose and Stenson fell further behind when Reed holed from five feet for another birdie on the seventh, the European pair struggling to pick the correct line on the greens.

McIlroy and Sullivan were gifted the sixth hole when Mickelson drove out of bounds and then had to attempt a right-handed shot when Fowler hit his drive up against the same boundary fence.

However, McIlroy's approach to the seventh hit a tree and landed in a water hazard and another bogey on the eighth meant the match was back to all square.

Kaymer and Garcia remained one up after six holes but Westwood and Pieters fell three down after Johnson holed from 30 feet for birdie on the fifth.

Earlier:

As spectacles go, nothing in golf quite matches the first tee at a Ryder Cup, writes Simon Lewis.

Even a relatively low key start to the 41st matches between the United States and Europe could not detract from the feeling that this is a very special contest.

On a misty morning in Minnesota that was reminiscent of Celtic Manor in Wales six years ago, the battle for transatlantic bragging rights got under way at Hazeltine National when Justin Rose hit the first shot for partner Henrik Stenson and cup holders Europe in the opening foursomes match against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

The colour, the noise and the tension were all there but this was not the raucous affair we've grown used to in recent years, certainly not as boisterous as the first morning of a Ryder Cup on European soil.

Still, the American fans were in full voice, and had even managed to add to their repertoire of chants, not difficult when all they'd had in their locker previously was “USA! USA! USA!”. Yet even then, “I Believe That We Will Win” repeated over and over will not exactly strike the fear into Darren Clarke's team.

The smaller pockets of European supporters in the first tee grandstand had jumped on the Will Griggs on fire bandwagon started by Wigan football fans with their own version: “Europe's On Fire, Davis Love is Terrified” but it was all good natured and relatively subdued.

Maybe it was the morning chill, perhaps it was the presence of a Ryder Cup Team USA golf bag standing in isolation on the corner of the tee that had once belonged to the late, great Arnold Palmer, who passed away last Sunday and whose death cast a shadow over an event he had graced like no other.

As the first match moved down the first fairway the crowd serenaded them with “God Bless America”, a powerful but quiet anthem that somehow fit the mood.

That will suit Europe down to the ground.

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