It took until his third Ryder Cup appearance to win his first full point but now Rickie Fowler has a victory to his name, you would not bet against him quickly adding more. Fowler teamed superbly with fellow Californian Phil Mickelson to complete a stunning victory over Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan in the morning foursomes, having been 2 down after 14 holes.
“He got the best out of me,” Mickelson said of Fowler. “I really cherish the opportunity to play with him. I knew when I first met him many years ago, he was something special. I never knew that we would play together in The Ryder Cup. But this is really a special moment.”
Any captain that oversees a session whitewash has to take some credit and it was all due to Davis Love after the morning foursomes as Team USA took a resounding 4-0 lead into the afternoon fourballs, putting Europe immediately on the back foot, fighting a deficit that may take all weekend to claw back.
The big early lead also allowed Love to put out all 12 of his players on day one.
No such luck for European captain Darren Clarke. His foursomes veteran/rookie pairing of Lee Westwood and Thomas Pieters, both his picks, had been a surprise pairing with Masters champion Danny Willett curiously omitted and they never looked comfortable together, thumped 5&4 by Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
Willett made his debut in the fourball session alongside Martin Kaymer as did Rafa Cabrera Bello with compatriot Sergio Garcia, retained despite poor form in the foursomes. Clarke also kept faith with Pieters, pairing the Belgian with Rory McIlroy while keeping rookies Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick on ice.
Compared to the rumpus breaking out all over the Hazeltine National course on the first day from a massive home crowd, the scene at the first tee at the crack of dawn was relatively genteel.
On a misty morning reminiscent of Celtic Manor in Wales six years ago, Justin Rose had hit the opening tee shot in his foursomes match with Henrik Stenson 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. That would come later but on the first tee it was certainly not as boisterous as an equivalent on European soil. Even the new American chant of “I Believe That We Will Win” repeated over and over was not exactly in your face if you were on the visiting team. Things would quickly change out on the course.
A day after Arnold Palmer’s ashes were spread over his hometown golf club in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, one of the King’s old Ryder Cup golf bags stood in isolation on the first tee box here at Hazeltine as the legacy of the late, great American golfer continued to be honoured.
Palmer’s death last Sunday at the age of 87 had cast a shadow over the biennial matches between Europe and the US, which he graced like no other, winning a record 22 matches in 11 appearances as a player and enjoying an unbeaten 2-0 run as his country’s captain.
On Friday at the first tee the fans were chanting his name as event organisers repeated the moving video tribute to Palmer’s life that had been part of a celebration of his life in Thursday’s opening ceremony. “The tribute to Arnold was very special, heart-warming, sad,” US player Jimmy Walker said. “It was very special and sad. It was very nicely done.”