Bryson DeChambeau insisted the job is not over for the United States after racing clear of Europe on day one in their quest to wrestle back the Ryder Cup.

Team USA have their biggest opening-day lead at the Ryder Cup since 1975 thanks to a dominant start – DeChambeau and his team-mates earning a commanding 6-2 advantage on Friday.

Ryder Cup holders Europe struggled for answers at Whistling Straits, where hosts USA starred in the morning foursomes and afternoon four-balls.

DeChambeau teamed up with Ryder Cup rookie Scottie Scheffler in the four-ball, halving their matchup against world number one Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.

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.

Reflecting on the team's red-hot start, DeChambeau told reporters: "Proud of the team. Super proud.

"They fought hard every single shot out there, from what I saw, and, again, looking back on it, this is a great start, but the job's not over. We have two more days. A lot more golf. And we cannot lose our mindset to win."

On DeChambeau's fifth-hole bomb, Scheffler added: "That was probably the most excited he's ever been on a golf course was on number five. That wind, we had it on one of our practice days, and we figured out what he needed to do, so to have an opportunity to do that in competition was amazing. I was jacked up for him as well.

"I think he pushed it a little bit, but he smashed it. So thankfully he pushed it just a touch. If he pulls that ball at all, it's weird, there are two towers behind the green, I can't even describe to you - they are like 250 or 200 yards right of where I'm trying to hit my drive, and it's crazy for him to be able to commit to that shot.

"I know he's very happy to make a three as well; if he made a five, he said he was probably going to go home. It was great. That was a good spark for us and good momentum for the rest of the day."

 

Tiger Woods is absent from this year's Ryder Cup as the 15-time major champion continues his recovery from the February high-speed car crash near Los Angeles that left him with serious leg injuries, and it remains to be seen whether he is capable of playing again on tour.

Despite not being among Team USA's Ryder Cup roster, the American superstar still had a telling influence on Friday, having reached out with a few words of encouragement.

Xander Schauffele revealed Woods sent a message on Thursday and Tony Finau elaborated on the text.

"Harry [Harris English] mentioned to me walking down number nine, like how cool it was that Tiger is so into it," Finau said during his post-round news conference. "I think that's the big thing is he's so invested in this team.

"He's not here physically, but you know, I think the gist of basically what he was saying was I'm cheering you guys on, I'm right there with you and go fight and make us proud.

"We were able to do that, and if TW's watching, thanks for that text, brother, I think it helps us a lot."

Rory McIlroy has been dropped for Saturday's foursomes line-up against the United States as Padraig Harrington's Europe fight to recover from a forgettable opening day at the Ryder Cup.

Team Europe face an uphill battle to retain the Ryder Cup after the USA snatched their biggest opening-day lead since 1975 as the hosts surged 6-2 ahead on Friday.

McIlroy suffered two heavy defeats at Whistling Straits, where the former world number one will watch from the sidelines on Saturday morning.

A 5 and 3 loss to Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele alongside Ian Poulter in the foursomes was followed by a 4 and 3 defeat in his pairing with Shane Lowry against Tony Finau and Harris English in the afternoon four-balls.

McIlroy – a four-time major champion – has been benched for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, having featured in every session since debuting in 2010.

"He's already a leader," Harrington said of McIlroy prior to the pairings being released. "You saw him out there after a tough day. He was out following those matches and supporting his team. He is very much a leader amongst his peers.

"I couldn't have asked more from him during the year. I couldn't have asked more from him today.

"Yeah, the golf didn't go as well as he would have liked, but I'm not second-guessing him for a second in terms of his leadership and what he does for my team."

World number one Jon Rahm and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia will lead Europe out against USA pair Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa will clash with Englishmen Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger face American duo Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, while it is a Cantlay-Schauffele and Lee Westwood-Matthew Fitzpatrick showdown.

"I'm very comfortable again with the team I've put out tomorrow," Harrington said. "Wait and see in each of those matches whether they can create their own momentum and then bring that to the team."

Rory McIlroy has been dropped for Saturday's foursomes line-up against the United States as Padraig Harrington's Europe fight to recover from a forgettable opening day at the Ryder Cup.

Team Europe face an uphill battle to retain the Ryder Cup after the USA snatched their biggest opening-day lead since 1975 as the hosts surged 6-2 ahead on Friday.

McIlroy suffered two heavy defeats at Whistling Straits, where the former world number one will watch from the sidelines on Saturday morning.

A 5 and 3 loss to Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele alongside Ian Poulter in the foursomes was followed by a 4 and 3 defeat in his pairing with Shane Lowry against Tony Finau and Harris English in the afternoon four-balls.

McIlroy – a four-time major champion – has been benched for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, having featured in every session since debuting in 2010.

"He's already a leader," Harrington said of McIlroy prior to the pairings being released. "You saw him out there after a tough day. He was out following those matches and supporting his team. He is very much a leader amongst his peers.

"I couldn't have asked more from him during the year. I couldn't have asked more from him today.

"Yeah, the golf didn't go as well as he would have liked, but I'm not second-guessing him for a second in terms of his leadership and what he does for my team."

World number one Jon Rahm and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia will lead Europe out against USA pair Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa will clash with Englishmen Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger face American duo Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, while it is a Cantlay-Schauffele and Lee Westwood-Matthew Fitzpatrick showdown.

"I'm very comfortable again with the team I've put out tomorrow," Harrington said. "Wait and see in each of those matches whether they can create their own momentum and then bring that to the team."

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)

Tiger Woods may not be at Whistling Straits, but his influence was felt as the United States made a rip-roaring start to their Ryder Cup trophy bid.

The 45-year-old Woods is continuing his recovery from the February high-speed car crash near Los Angeles that left him with serious leg injuries, and it remains to be seen whether he is capable of playing again on tour.

But the 15-time major winner is willing the USA team to snatch back the cup from Europe, and Xander Schauffele revealed he had been in touch with a few words of encouragement.

Woods, who often struggled to take his world-beating form onto the Ryder Cup stage, had his say before the Americans raced into a 3-1 lead following the morning foursomes.

Schauffele, after teaming up with fellow debutant Patrick Cantlay to land a dazzling 5 and 3 win over Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, confirmed Woods wanted to offer help from afar.

 

"We got a nice message from Tiger last night," Schauffele said on the Golf Channel.

"I'm not going to reveal what it said, but Pat and I knew and we referred to it a few times today, and we knew what we needed to do.

"We knew he was fist-pumping from the couch. Whether he was on crutches or not, he's as fired up as anyone back at home, so it's nice to have his support."

Woods has a disappointing record of just 13 wins from 37 Ryder Cup matches, an unexpectedly weak performance given his PGA Tour and major championship prowess.

But he remains an idol for many players on the team, with Schauffele and Cantlay two of six rookies on Steve Stricker's roster this year.

Cantlay said: "[There's] no better role model and no better leader and somebody you can always learn from.

"I saw him last week at home and picked his brain on Ryder Cup and applied some of that here today."

The USA pair sped to a 5up lead through five holes on the way to their dominant victory, feeding off the largely American crowd.

A disappointed McIlroy said: "The start wasn't great. I don't know if anyone could have beat Xander and Patrick today.

"They played really good, four birdies in a row. Geez, yeah, they played great. They were a great pairing today, and all you can do is praise them for the way they played."

Ryder Cup team captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington have confirmed their selections for the Friday four-ball session at Whistling Straits.

The United States took a 3-1 lead after the morning foursomes session in the 43rd edition of the tournament, with the hosts looking to wrestle the trophy back from Europe in Wisconsin.

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia got Europe off to a good start as they saw off Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth 3 and 1, but Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa got the USA back on level pegging, with Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger then edging out Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Ryder Cup debutants Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele did for Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, and Schauffele will be swiftly back out on the course as he pairs with Johnson for match one of the afternoon four-ball session.

The duo take on Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger, with match two seeing Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler face Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.

Match three pairs Tony Finau and Harris English together for the USA, with Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry - who both represented Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics - teaming up.

The final four-ball match of the session will involve Thomas and Cantlay for the USA, with Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland their opponents.

The United States' position as the heavy favourites to win the Ryder Cup was vindicated as they claimed a 3-1 lead after the foursomes.

Though the first point at Whistling Straits went to Europe's Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, the other three matches were dominated by the hosts in Wisconsin.

Victories for the pairs of Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger and Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele left Europe with significant work to do in the fourballs as they bid to retain the cup.

The weight of expectation is firmly on the USA; however, after the Americans rose to the challenge in the opening session, the onus switches to Europe's captain Padraig Harrington, who was eyeing an afternoon improvement to prevent his team slipping to a potentially decisive deficit.

Garcia and Rahm might have feared the worst when the former drove into the bunker off the opening tee.

However, Garcia was superb with the driver thereafter and Rahm excelled with the flat stick as they claimed their match against Justin Spieth and Justin Thomas 3 and 1.

Yet the form that all-Spanish duo produced could not be replicated by their European team-mates.

Morikawa and Johnson soon levelled matters following Garcia and Rahm's triumph, their victory secured when Morikawa converted a short putt from 22 inches on the 16th to defeat Viktor Hovland, who missed a long putt for birdie to keep the match alive, and Paul Casey.

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele were in command throughout against two Ryder Cup mainstays in Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.

The American pair won the first five holes and, despite a brief comeback from McIlroy and Poutler, prevailed 5 and 3.

And, while Rahm thrived on the green, Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick could not buy a putt in their loss to Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka, whose 2 and 1 success put the USA 11.5 points from regaining the cup.

 

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

The United States launched their bid to reclaim the Ryder Cup from Europe as the action teed off at Whistling Straits on Friday.

Sergio Garcia, playing alongside Spanish compatriot Jon Rahm, had the honour of hitting the opening shot in the morning foursomes, with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas providing the opposition.

A raucous crowd created a tremendous atmosphere on the first tee in Wisconsin, with some boos for Europe, for whom Garcia drove into a bunker before Thomas responded by finding the fairway.

Europe, then led by Thomas Bjorn, won by seven points last time out at Le Golf National in 2018 and new captain Padraig Harrington has gone for experience to kick off his team's campaign after a year's delay amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul Casey, 44, joins Viktor Hovland against Dustin Johnson and Open champion Collin Morikawa in the next match out, followed by the 48-year-old Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick against Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger. 

The final clash of the opening session pits Ian Poulter, 45, and Rory McIlroy against the rookie American duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. 

Europe have left Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger on the sidelines for the opening matches, while Bryson DeChambeau, Harris English, Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler miss out for the hosts.

The fourballs pairings will be confirmed later in the day.

Friday's foursomes

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

Europe will look to their Ryder Cup veterans to set the tone when play begins at Whistling Straits on Friday. 

Captain Padraig Harrington's four oldest players, all in their 40s, will feature for Europe in the morning foursomes against a youthful USA group whose oldest player, Dustin Johnson, is 37. 

All-time Ryder Cup scoring leader Sergio Garcia, 41, will lead the charge with world number one Jon Rahm as the Spanish pair face Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in the opening match in Wisconsin. 

"We would have been aware that JT and Jordan would have gone first, obviously, so we were going to lead ourselves with a strong partnership," Harrington told a news conference. "The whole world will be watching that one."

Teeing off next, Paul Casey (44) will team with rookie Viktor Hovland against Johnson and Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, followed by Lee Westwood (48) and Matthew Fitzpatrick against Brooks Koepka and Danel Berger. 

The final matchup of the opening session will pit Ian Poulter (45) and Rory McIlroy against the rookie American duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. 

"We've gone with an experienced setup, no doubt about it, but it was our strong setup," Harrington said. "It just happened to be experienced. I was happy with that, there's no doubt, when it came out like that and you're looking at it and you go, yeah, that's very experienced. That is a big bonus.

"But it didn't weaken our fourballs – that was very important. We still have a strong fourball setup and we haven't taken from the afternoon by going with a strong setup in the morning." 

Europe will leave Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger on the sidelines for the opening matches, while the USA will do the same with Bryson DeChambeau, Harris English, Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler. 

While the Europe captain said it was safe to assume his players who will sit out the morning will play in the afternoon fourballs, his US counterpart Steve Stricker declined to be drawn on that topic – though both captains said their foursome and fourball pairings were set and communicated to their teams early in the week.

Each also said he was focused on his own side as opposed to worrying about what the other team might be doing, though both put special emphasis on the first and fourth matches. 

"We talked occasionally about maybe who they're going to put out, but it doesn't matter," Stricker said. "I mean, they're all such great players, they're all highly ranked players and we know that we're going to have to play our best to to beat them.

"We had an idea that Rory and Rahm would probably go one and four, and that's pretty much all we knew, or really thought about. We didn't know who their guys were going to be paired with but we kind of had that figured out, so we tried to act accordingly as well."

Asked whether any of his players had expressed disappointment in not being included in the morning pairings, Stricker immediately responded "not at all." 

"These guys have been incredible," he added. "I can't stress it enough, really, and it's about the communication that we've had, the captains and myself, and being upfront with them and just letting them know what we're thinking, so there's no curveballs.

"We've heard it multiple times from all the players: If you want to play me once, or all five, you know, that's up to you – meaning the captains – and just so we can try to win this Cup."

Friday's foursomes

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

After three long years, the wait for another Ryder Cup ends this week as the United States and Europe take to the fairways and greens of Whistling Straits. 

Europe are the holders but the USA start as favourites for many observers, with home advantage and a formidable-looking team. 

There will be shocks along the way and there will be some expected stars of the show who end up taking a back seat as unlikely heroes emerge. 

Captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington will have their own ideas of who might be best placed to make a telling impression. 

Here, Stats Perform looks at four players who could make a huge impact across the weekend in Wisconsin. 

UNITED STATES: Super Spieth ready to show his teeth

Jordan Spieth has been a resurgent force this year, finishing second at the Open Championship and in a tie for third at the Masters, while at the other two majors he finished a respectable 19th and 30th. 

The American also ended a four-year wait for a victory on the PGA Tour with a sweet win in his home state at the Texas Open in April and is primed to cap a fine year with a strong Ryder Cup. 

Spieth has mentioned in the build-up that he loves the course set-up at Whistling Straits, which he feels provides scoring opportunities on almost every hole. 

The 28-year-old also referenced his previous Ryder Cup success. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among USA players in the team format. 

UNITED STATES: Nice guy Finau just the man for Stricker's superstars

American teams in the past have been accused of…well…not exactly getting along. Having the ultimate good guy in the team is sure to boost morale and Tony Finau certainly fits that mould. 

But make no mistake, Finau is a guy with real pedigree – even if sometimes he hasn't quite been able to convert that into wins (his triumph at the Northern Trust last month was only his second PGA Tour title and first in five years). 

On his Ryder Cup debut, he was one of few bright notes for Team USA, with Finau winning two of his three matches – including a singles win over the otherwise unflappable Tommy Fleetwood, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the American team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five). 

Moreover, at the 2015 US PGA Championship, Finau finished 10th having shot four sub-par rounds at Whistling Straits. Finau is the sort of character who can really flourish at a Ryder Cup, particularly with home support behind him. 

 

EUROPE: Europe eye trophy Rahm raid

Jon Rahm is the man for the big occasion. He is the only player to have secured a top-10 finish at all four majors this year, while he is also Europe's most recent victor at one of the leading events, having won the U.S. Open. 

The world number one's Ryder Cup debut did not go entirely to plan in 2018, as he won only one of his three matches, but that triumph was in a singles match-up with Tiger Woods – only Tiger's second loss in the format. 

Now established at the forefront of the sport, Rahm will expect to be the man to lead Europe to glory with an improved all-round showing, justifying his status as the bookmakers' favourite to be the leading points scorer at Whistling Straits. 

EUROPE: Viktor sounds like a winner

Belgium's Thomas Pieters was the top points scorer five years ago at Hazeltine, scoring four points but ending on the losing side. With Norway's Viktor Hovland relishing his debut on the team, could there be another surprise leader on the points board? 

Hovland played college golf for Oklahoma State and has been a familiar figure on the PGA Tour, so playing in America is second nature. He was low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open in 2019, won the U.S. Amateur, and has come of age since, jumping to a career-high world ranking of number 10 in August. 

Eight top-10 finishes and just one missed cut since the turn of the year show what he brings, and that level of consistent play is bound to appeal to captain Harrington. 

"I'd like to think I have some fans out there that maybe won't necessarily boo against us," Hovland said this week. "But if they do end up doing that, that's what they're going to do. We're still going to play golf, and if they do end up doing that, that means we're doing something good." 

The 43rd Ryder Cup begins at Whistling Straits on Friday a year later than planned, with Europe seeking to retain the trophy after hammering the United States in Paris three years ago.

Delayed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, golf's most famous team competition makes its long-awaited return after Europe's 17.5 – 10.5 victory at Le Golf National in 2019.

Ahead of the action, Stats Perform explains the format of the contest.

 

HOW THE POINTS ARE SCORED

A total of 28 matchplay contests will be played across three days, with each contest worth one point.

If a match is level after 18 holes, Europe and the United States simply take half a point each.

As holders, Europe need only 14 points to retain the trophy, while their opponents must reach 14.5 to regain the Ryder Cup.

FOURBALLS AND FOURSOMES

The first two days are all about teamwork.

On Friday and Saturday, the morning sessions will involve fourball matches, each team fielding eight players in four pairings.

The fourball format is often known as better-ball as each duo takes their best individual score on each hole. So, for example, if Rory McIlroy makes a three and Jon Rahm a four, it is McIlroy's score that counts.

After the morning fourball sessions, things get interesting in the afternoons as eight more players from each side combine for foursomes action.

In this format, the two men on each team share one ball and take alternate shots, which can lead to some apologetic words between colleagues if a poor shot is played.

SUNDAY SINGLES

A whopping 12 points are up for grabs on the final day of the competition as all 24 competitors go head-to-head in singles matches.

While the captain determines who features on Friday and Saturday, with some players heavily involved and others lightly used or even left out altogether, every single team member is involved on Sunday.

World number three Justin Thomas has played down the United States' favouritism at the upcoming Ryder Cup despite boasting eight of the current top 10 players in the world.

The US are seeking to re-claim the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits starting on Friday, with Europe having won seven of the past nine events. Europe has also won four of the past five Ryder Cups.

The hosts boast an excellent team, including 2021 Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, last year's Masters' winner Dustin Johnson, last year's U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau, Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Xander Schauffele and recently crowned PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay.

Europe only has one player currently ranked inside the top 10, being 2021 U.S. Open champion and world number one Jon Rahm.

"You can dive as deep as you want into the pairings, into who's sitting, who's playing, but at the end of the day whatever team plays the best is going to win," Thomas said.

"We have 12 unbelievable players, they have 12 unbelievable players, and it's really just who's going to go out there and get it and who's going to go out and execute the best.

"I've watched many Ryder Cups on TV, and it's who makes the putts, who flips those matches, who grinds out the halves and who gets it done. I'd go to war with these 11 other guys and our captains like I'm going to do this week, and I have all the faith in the world in all the rookies. I think their experience proves that they are beyond rookies.

"It's going to be a fun week. It was a fun week for me in France just in terms of the atmosphere and experience and all, and I'm sure the fact that it's on U.S. soil will help those nerves a little bit."

Thomas revealed he had spoken to 15-time major winner Tiger Woods, who will not join the team in Wisconsin as he continues his rehabilitation from multiple leg injuries sustained in a car crash in February.

Woods has previously been involved in the past four team events for the US in some capacity, including as captain at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia.

"I got together with him a couple times last week," Thomas said. "More so just going over to see how he's doing as a friend, more than as a vice captain."

"He's so into it. He obviously wants the best for our team. He wants the best for all of us. It means a lot to him.

"I think people would be surprised -- obviously you all saw in Australia how much it meant to him, but just the amount of work and the amount of hours he's willing to spend to make sure that he feels like the team is prepared and as ready to go as possible is pretty cool.

"At the end of the day he also understands that we're 12 of the best players in the world, and we know how to play golf. Sometimes less is more, so I think he's great at balancing that out."

The United States are favourites to make home advantage count and regain the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits this weekend.

An emphatic 17.5-10.5 victory at Le Golf National in September 2018 saw Europe regain the trophy under Thomas Bjorn, as the likes of Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter played starring roles.

Yet while Europe have won six successive home Ryder Cups, their recent record on American soil has been mixed.

We take a look at the last five editions of the event in the USA.

 

2016 - Hazeltine

Result: United States 17 - 11 Europe

Europe had won three Ryder Cups in a row ahead of the 2016 event, but they were in for a shock at Hazeltine.

Darren Clarke's hopes of masterminding victory suffered a hammer blow on the first morning as the United States, captained by Davis Love III, pulled off a clean sweep of the Friday foursomes.

Rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafael Cabrera-Bello impressed as Europe narrowed their deficit, but the USA regained control in the second fourball session and went on to triumph by a six-point margin, the talismanic Patrick Reed defeating Rory McIlroy in a dramatic opening singles match to set the tone for the hosts.

2012 - Medinah

Result: United States 13.5 - 14.5 Europe

Is it really nine years since the 'Miracle of Medinah'?

In the first Ryder Cup since the death of European icon Seve Ballesteros, the Spaniard's close friend Jose Maria Olazabal oversaw the most remarkable of comebacks to ensure Europe retained the trophy they had claimed at Celtic Manor two years earlier.

The USA were 10-4 up on Saturday afternoon, having won five of the day's first six contests.

However, Europe crucially won the last two fourball contests, with Poulter the architect of an astonishing turnaround in the anchor match.

Poulter and his team-mates then overhauled a four-point deficit in the singles, something that had only happened once before in Ryder Cup history, with Martin Kaymer sinking the winning putt to spark emotional scenes of celebration from the visiting team.

2008 - Valhalla

Result: United States 16.5 - 11.5 Europe

No European golfer in the professional era has claimed more major titles than Nick Faldo's six and the Englishman was also the most prolific points scorer in Ryder Cup history before Garcia moved past his tally of 25 at Le Golf National.

However, Faldo was nowhere near as successful in a miserable stint as Europe's captain, which yielded a heavy defeat to Paul Azinger's United States team at Valhalla.

The infamous 'sandwich-gate' incident - in which Faldo was photographed holding an apparent list of pairings only to then claim, somewhat unfeasibly, it was a list of lunch requests - was not the only gaffe made by the former world number one before the event had even begun.

Europe were then handsomely beaten when the action did get under way, trailing throughout on their way to a 16.5-11.5 loss.

Hunter Mahan was the leading points-scorer for the USA, who prevailed in seven of the 12 Sunday singles contests, but the likes of Anthony Kim, Boo Weekley, Justin Leonard and J.B. Holmes were among others to play starring roles.

 

2004 - Oakland Hills

Result: United States 9.5 - 18.5 Europe

In contrast to Faldo, the meticulous Bernhard Langer did not put a foot wrong in 2004 as Europe stormed to victory by a record margin at Oakland Hills.

Every member of Langer's team contributed at least a point, with wildcard selections Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald among those to excel in a stunningly one-sided match.

In contrast, a USA team led by Hal Sutton and featuring three of the world's top 10 failed to deliver, with Chris DiMarco the only player to score more than two points for the hosts.

Montgomerie, in his penultimate Ryder Cup appearance as a player, famously holed the winning putt and went on to say: "That singles win over David Toms, in fact that whole week, rejuvenated me and my career."

 

1999 - Brookline

Result: United States 14.5 - 13.5 Europe

Prior to Europe's fightback at Medinah in 2012, the only previous instance of a team coming from four points behind in the singles came at Brookline, in distinctly fractious circumstances.

Mark James was Europe's skipper for an event sadly overshadowed by boorish abuse of visiting players by a partisan crowd and raucous scenes on the 17th hole on Sunday.

A mammoth putt from Leonard prompted an invasion of the green from the US team, even though Olazabal still had a putt of his own to come.

Ben Crenshaw's USA ultimately triumphed 14.5-13.5, but the 'Battle of Brookline' would be remembered for the wrong reasons.

In a subsequent autobiography, Sam Torrance - a vice-captain for Europe that week - described the final day of the 1999 event as: "the most disgraceful and disgusting day in the history of professional golf."

US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker says the bubbling feud between top 10 pair Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka will be a "non-issue" at this weekend's team play event at Whistling Straits.

DeChambeau and Koepka have a history of trading public blows, having never hidden their dislike for one another.

Koepka called out DeChambeau for slow play in 2019, while the 2020 U.S. Open champion poked fun at the four-time major winner's physique in January last year.

DeChambeau's coach Mike Schy said this week that the 28-year-old wants to end the dispute, with that sentiment reiterated by Stricker prior to the Ryder Cup which starts on Friday as the US seeks to reclaim the trophy from Europe.

"It’s a non-issue, really, for me and the team," Stricker said. "We got together a few weeks ago and I’ve had conversations with them both.

"They have assured me it’s not going to be an issue. I have no worries whatsoever."

The US Ryder Cup team features 2021 Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay along with DeChambeau and Koepka.

Stricker unsurprisingly admitted that the latter two would likely not be paired together for the team play event.

"Will we pair them together? I don’t think so at this point but things could change," Stricker said.

"Could always happen but probably not. Again, I had a dinner; they all showed up. We had great conversation, great talks.

"I’m not seeing it as an issue at all and they are completely on board."

Stricker also revealed that 15-time major winner Tiger Woods will not attend the Ryder Cup this weekend as he continues his rehabilitation from his February car accident.

Woods, 45, sustained multiple leg injuries in the single vehicle collision accident.

"I think it’s just not a good time for him to be here physically because of where he’s at in his rehabilitation," Stricker said.

"It’s a tough course to walk. Everybody is going to see it, from tee-to-green, it’s difficult."

Woods has taken up roles at the past four international competitions with the US, including playing captain at the 2019 Presidents Cup and is passionate about team play.

"He's been obviously in my ear a lot and I call him pretty regularly," Stricker said. "He's part of our Ryder Cup team. He's part of what we do."

Stricker added: "He’s getting better and his focus and mine is on making a comeback to play again. We don’t want to get in the way of that because we would all love to see him come back and play."

Bryson DeChambeau wants to end his feud with Ryder Cup team-mate Brooks Koepka, according to the former's coach Mike Schy.

DeChambeau and Koepka have made their dislike for one another known since 2019, when the latter called out last year's U.S. Open champion for slow play.

World number seven DeChambeau duly responded by poking fun at Koepka's physique, with a leaked Golf Channel interview providing further fuel as the four-time major winner rolled his eyes as his rival walked behind the camera.

However, after Europe captain Padraig Harrington warned the pair could be a dangerous duo and the United States captain Steve Stricker tried to broker peace, coach Schy revealed his player's desire to end the hostility.

"Whether or not they are both doing it to maximise their global profile, Bryson [DeChambeau] wants it over," Schy told the Times on Monday.

"Move on. The bottom line is two big egos."

DeChambeau is set for his second Ryder Cup appearance at Whistling Straits on Friday, while Koepka will take part in his third as they look to stop Europe from retaining the famous trophy.

Schy says DeChambeau is desperate to succeed in the 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup after missing out on the Tokyo Olympics due to a positive COVID-19 test.

"He loves team play," Schy continued. "At times, when he’s struggling, it can look a little selfish, but the reality is he is doing his best to contribute."

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