Ryder Cup: United States race clear as Europe suffer dire Straits on opening day

By Sports Desk September 24, 2021

The United States snatched their biggest opening-day lead at a Ryder Cup since 1975 as they powered 6-2 ahead of Europe at Whistling Straits.

All of Europe's worst fears were realised on Friday as the cup holders left themselves with everything to do over the weekend.

Rory McIlroy, rather than proving a talisman, suffered two heavy defeats, with world number one Jon Rahm's excellence not enough to prevent a landslide as Steve Stricker's American team dominated.

Rahm and Sergio Garcia put the first point of the day on the board, beating Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, but the home side bossed the rest of the morning foursomes to seize a 3-1 lead. Two more wins in the afternoon, and two halved matches, meant another 3-1 session for the USA, who will now look to assure themselves of a big lead heading into Sunday's singles.

There were shots that caught the eye, including an astonishing chip up a steep bank from Spieth in the morning and a 417-yard bomb from Bryson DeChambeau in the afternoon fourballs.

But it was consistent quality from the US team that put them in such a commanding position, with Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele both winning twice, including as a pair in the fourballs.

Johnson said: "Today was a great day for both me and Xander, and we both won our matches in the morning and this afternoon. Couldn't have been any better."

Patrick Cantlay, the PGA Tour Player of the Year, played with Schauffele in the morning as they trounced McIlroy and Ian Poulter 5 and 3, and he was then part of the last match of the afternoon, as he and Thomas came from three behind to halve against Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.

"For sure I was feeding off JT a little bit, he was carrying me around all day today, he played great," Cantlay said. "Three and one in both sessions, that's a great start. Hopefully we can keep the pedal down and keep doing more of the same."

Europe's fortunes were summed up when Fleetwood hooked his tee shot at 16 into Lake Michigan, with Thomas holing a silky eagle putt to win that hole.

There was a huge boost for Europe, however, when Tyrrell Hatton holed a clutch putt at 18, winning the hole as he and Rahm snatched a half point against Scottie Scheffler and DeChambeau.

Rahm said: "I'm not going to lie: when I hit my bunker shot at 16 and we both had over 15 feet for birdie and they were both within 10 feet, things did look dark, to say the least. Luckily I was able to roll mine in and I told him [Hatton] that we can finish strong and still get this done.

"Not many people are as clutch as he is under pressure and he showed it right here so hopefully this gives him a lot of confidence for tomorrow and we get the ball rolling."


Shot of the day

Spieth conjured up an incredible shot on the 17th after playing partner Thomas had seemingly left him in an impossible position.

Spieth somehow chipped to around four feet away from the pin from the bottom of a steep bank in thick grass beyond railway sleepers. Spieth hurtled down to the edge of the water following his great escape, but his exploits were not enough to prevent Spanish pair Rahm and Garcia claiming the first point of the competition.

The three-time major champion said: "it's kind of one of those shots that you practice as a kid for fun, and you don't ultimately want to have it. And the chances of it going there, you could roll a thousand balls off the green, and it's not going it stay where it was.

"I hit like a 52-degree because a 60 might have gone over the back of my head and just tried to flick it right underneath and hit it as hard as I could, as high as I could."

Player of the day

At his fifth Ryder Cup, Johnson played like he is sick of that losing feeling, having known it three times already. He and Schauffele were a strong pairing in the afternoon, while Johnson guided Collin Morikawa through the morning foursomes. As McIlroy floundered for Europe elsewhere on the course, the US team had a seasoned member of their team step up and lead.

Chipping in

McIlroy: "Xander, Patrick, played wonderful, and Tony – I haven't seen Tony putt as good as that in a long time. When you have got a couple of pairs like that on form, on a difficult golf course where it's sort of hard to make birdies and they go on runs, if you're not quite 100 per cent on top of your game, it's tough. We can come back from 6-2."

Johnson: "Obviously we have a lot of support on our side, and MJ [Michael Jordan] is out there, he's a huge supporter of the Ryder Cup and huge supporter of golf, but it's nice to see him come out and support us."

Tony Finau: "You've just got to enjoy it. All these people out here cheering us on, that's the biggest thing. You have to enjoy it. I learned that in Paris, and the more you can just have fun with it, it seems to keep you loose, and I was able to roll the rock nicely today."

A little birdie told me...

Garcia is Europe's top points-scorer in Ryder Cup history and the Spaniard matched Nick Faldo's record tally of 23 match wins when he and compatriot Rahm drew first blood in the morning session.

Powerhouse  DeChambeau hit an astonishing 417-yard drive on the 581-yard par-five fifth hole, setting up an eagle to put himself and Scheffler one up in their four-ball contest with Rahm and Hatton.

Friday's foursomes results

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (Eur) beat Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA) 3 and 1
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) beat Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland (Eur) 3 and 2
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger (USA) beat Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (Eur) 2 and 1
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (USA) beat Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter (Eur) 5 and 3

Friday's four-ball results

Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele (USA) beat Bernd Wiesberger and Paul Casey (Eur) 2 and 1
Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau (USA) halved with Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton (Eur)
Harris English and Tony Finau (USA) beat Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry 4 and 3
Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay (USA) halved with Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood (Eur)

Related items

  • Wimbledon: Mother of all shocks as Sakkari slumps to Tatjana Maria Wimbledon: Mother of all shocks as Sakkari slumps to Tatjana Maria

    Tatjana Maria bumped Maria Sakkari out of Wimbledon as the German who once played at the All England Club while pregnant condemned the Greek star to a stunning exit.

    Mum-of-two Maria dazzled in a 6-3 7-5 victory over the fifth seed, reaching round four of a grand slam for the first time in her career. She had suffered eight successive first-round losses in slams until this week's turnaround, last getting a win at the 2018 US Open.

    The inspired Maria revelled on the Court Two big stage, becoming the oldest German woman in the Open Era, which began in 1968, to make it through to the last-16 stage of a major.

    At the age of 34 years and 228 days, world number 103 Maria is also the oldest woman remaining in the Wimbledon singles this year.

    Sakkari lost in two tight sets to Maria at the Australian Open in January, but the roles were reversed this time, the impressive German landing a fifth career win over a top-10 player.

    Husband and coach Charles-Edouard Maria watched from the stands, while their daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte and one-year-old Cecilia, played in a nearby creche.

    Maria said in an on-court interview: "I came here with my two kids for the first time. I was so happy to be in the main draw. I love to play on grass. It's such a special place for me. One year, when I was in my first pregnancy, I played pregnant.

    "I love to play Wimbledon and to make this happen with my family there are no words for this, only joy and only happiness."

    She said her daughters were probably "jumping in front of the TV", and spoke of wanting to set a positive example for her tennis-playing elder daughter.

    "I try to be really a role model for my daughter, because she will be the next champion, so I try to show her the best way possible," Maria added. "I cannot wait to go over to the creche now and see my kids."

    Neither Maria nor Sakkari had ever gone beyond round three at Wimbledon, with this the one grand slam where the Greek world number five has not reached the last-16 stage.

    Maria was one of three mothers in the draw, the WTA said, along with Serena Williams and Yanina Wickmayer, both of whom made early exits. The next test for Maria will be posed by big-hitting Latvian Jelena Ostapenko.

  • Celtics acquire Malcolm Brogdon from Pacers Celtics acquire Malcolm Brogdon from Pacers

    The Indiana Pacers have agreed to trade point guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday, bolstering the backcourt of the reigning Eastern Conference champions. 

    Indiana are getting a 2023 first-round draft pick from the Celtics, along with Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts and Juwan Morgan. 

    The Celtics set out to find a traditional point guard this offseason after last season's NBA Finals run came up short largely due to a high turnover rate.  Boston committed 353 turnovers during their 24-game playoff run, the most since the 2003 San Antonio Spurs (365). 

    Jayson Tatum was responsible for 100 of those turnovers, the most by a player in a single postseason since the league started tracking turnovers in 1977-78.

    Brogdon averaged 19.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists last season for Indiana but was limited to just 36 games by a lingering injury to his right Achilles tendon. 

    A second round pick out of Virginia, Brogdon spent his first three seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and won Rookie of the Year in 2016-17. He has spent the past three seasons with the Pacers. 

    Even after acquiring Brogdon, Boston top executive Brad Stevens may not be done adding to the Celtics' roster.

    ESPN reported earlier on Friday that veteran forward Danilo Gallinari – who was traded to the Spurs and was then to be waived – has identified Boston as his preferred landing spot. 

  • Pant leads counter to recover foothold for India at Edgbaston Pant leads counter to recover foothold for India at Edgbaston

    Rishabh Pant's inspired counter-attack ensured India ended day one of the final Test against England at Edgbaston still firmly in the match.

    England came into the rearranged final encounter of last year's series on a high following the whitewash of New Zealand and soon reduced India to 98-5, before Pant (146 off 111) and Ravindra Jadeja (83 not out) led the fightback.

    Their partnership of 222 – in which Pant did the heavy lifting with a barrage of boundaries and the fastest Test century by an India wicketkeeper – helped carry the tourists to 338-7 by stumps.

    Ben Stokes had unsurprisingly put India in to bat, potentially pursuing a fourth successive successful fourth-innings chase.

    The England captain first needed his bowlers to deliver, and James Anderson (3-52) did exactly that in the morning session in tempting edges from Shubman Gill (17) and Cheteshwar Pujara (13) – Zak Crawley taking each catch either side of putting down a chance from Hanuma Vihari off the bowling of Matthew Potts.

    Rain interrupted play – bringing an early lunch – but not England's momentum, as Potts (2-85) pinned Vihari (20) and then bamboozled Virat Kohli (11), who pulled his bat away too late and saw the ball run off the face into his stumps.

    Anderson's third wicket from Shreyas Iyer (15) owed a great deal to a superb Sam Billings catch, yet Pant's big hitting turned the tide – helped by some increasingly untidy work from England.

    Pant eventually departed to Joe Root, nicking to Crawley in attempting another blast to pass 150, but the hosts still have work to do with the ball before they will again be asked to score well with the bat in a continuation of this entertaining new era under Stokes.

    New foe for Kohli

    Many have pondered the possibility this is the last time Anderson and Kohli come face to face in a Test match, given the England great turns 40 later this month. No bowler has claimed more Kohli wickets in Tests than Anderson (seven).

    But this time it was the turn of the new man. Potts had stunning figures of 3-3 bowling to Kane Williamson in the New Zealand series and quickly added another huge scalp, with Kohli now averaging an underwhelming 28.63 for this delayed series.

    Pant profits

    Despite India's 2-1 lead as they bid to win a Test series in England for the first time since 2007, Kohli was not alone in struggling slightly with the bat last year. Pant's series average entering this match was 20.86, with a high score of 50.

    But suspicions England's aggressive approach could soon meet their match were affirmed by his ability to find the boundary time and again, avoiding the sort of errors on which Stokes' attack might have preyed. Pant had 23 boundaries in this innings, surpassing his 15 in the previous four matches between the sides combined.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.