Europe fightback after disastrous start – Ryder Cup Day 1

Team Europe recovered from a disastrous opening session at the 41st Ryder Cup as they won three of the afternoon fourballs to end the first day trailing 5-3.

The scoreboards around Hazeltine were a sea of red in the morning foursomes as Davis Love’s side took advantage of some erratic play from the holders to earn a clean sweep – their first in a Ryder Cup opening session since Arnold Palmer captained them to victory in 1975.

But Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson ignited a spirited comeback and exacted revenge for their earlier defeat to Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, storming to a 5&4 victory over the same pair with a combined nine birdies over the 14 holes.

Rafa Cabrera Bello enjoyed a winning Ryder Cup with a comfortable win alongside fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia over JB Holmes and Ryan Moore, although Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka ensured the opening day would not end all square with a crushing 5&4 victory over Danny Willett and an out-of-sorts Martin Kaymer.

But Thomas Pieters proved an inspired fourballs partner for Rory McIlroy in the final match of the day, the young Belgian winning four holes to McIlroy’s three in a comfortable 4&3 triumph over Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

European skipper Darren Clarke would have feared a hefty first-day deficit after the morning whitewash, but his team will now go into the second morning with confidence and momentum.

Thomas Pieters and Rory McIlroy in action yesterday.
Thomas Pieters and Rory McIlroy in action yesterday.

The Americans started the second session as they left the first, with Reed draining a birdie putt to win the first hole after lunch, but Stenson’s par levelled the match at the fourth and the Open champion reeled off three straight birdies from the sixth including a near hole-in-one at the short eighth.

Rose chipped in with winning birdies at the 11th and 14th to put the first blue on the board, although the home side’s four-point lead was restored moments later as Koepka marked his first appearance with a win alongside Snedeker.

Willett was given a frosty reception on the first tee, but he responded with a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway before he drained a monster putt to salvage a half after Koepka had clipped his second in close.

But Snedeker’s birdie at the second gave the American pair a lead they never looked like losing, with Willett doing his best to keep the Europeans in the match as Kaymer struggled throughout and failed to make a single birdie.

Cabrera Bello got his Ryder Cup career up and running with a birdie at the first, and the flying Spaniards cruised into a four-up lead at the turn which Garcia maintained with further birdies at the 10th and 11th.

Moore then made two in a row at 14 and 15 to halve the deficit, but they could not match Garcia’s four at the long 16th as the veteran wrapped up a 3&2 victory.

Henrik Stenson lead the European fightback.
Henrik Stenson lead the European fightback.

McIlroy and Andy Sullivan had twice throw away two-hole leads in the morning foursomes, but the Northern Irishman atoned alongside the impressive Pieters in the afternoon as they held off a late fightback from Johnson and Kuchar.

The Europeans combined for five birdies as they raced into a four-up lead after only seven holes, and a brilliant two from Pieters after McIlroy found the water at the 13th put them four ahead with five to play after Johnson had pulled a hole back at the 11th.

But the home pair won the 14th with a par before Johnson’s birdie at 15 set up a tense finish, but McIlroy nailed a superb putt for eagle at the next and celebrated wildly on the green as his rejuvenated team-mates cheered from the sidelines with spirits fully restored.

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