Golf: US blanks Europe in emotional Ryder Cup start

The US'  Zach Johnson throws his ball as he celebrates his win during the Morning Foursome matches.
The US' Zach Johnson throws his ball as he celebrates his win during the Morning Foursome matches.PHOTO: AFP
Jordan Spieth gives a thumbs up to his partner while playing the Morning Foursome matches at the 41st Ryder Cup.
Jordan Spieth gives a thumbs up to his partner while playing the Morning Foursome matches at the 41st Ryder Cup.PHOTO: AFP

CHASKA, Minnesota (AFP) - The United States whitewashed Europe 4-0 in Friday’s (Sept 30) opening alternate shot foursomes session at the Ryder Cup, the first time in 41 years the Americans blanked their rivals to start the team golf showdown.

Not since a 1975 squad captained by Arnold Palmer, who died last Sunday at age 87, had the Americans dominated an opening session as they did at Hazeltine, never trailing to win two matches and coming from behind in two more with impressive late fightbacks.

“A dream start,” US captain Davis Love said of his players. “The guys have really come together. It has been an emotional couple of weeks with Arnold’s passing.

“There’s a long way to go. There’s a lot more points out there.”

A US squad that was outscored 7-1 in foursomes in 2014 swept an opening session for only the third time ever against Europe, having also gone 4-0 in 1947.

It bodes well for America’s chances to snap a three-Cup losing skid and end domination that has seen Europe win eight of the past 10 Cups.

“Their guys fought better than we did and 4-0 is a worthy result for how they played,” Europe captain Darren Clarke said.

“It’s not an ideal start but we have come back from starts worse than this in the past. It’s a big hole we’ve dug but they are keen to get back out there.”

Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed never trailed in downing Olympic champion Justin Rose of England and British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden 3 and 2 in the opening matchup of two duos that went undefeated in 2014.

“It was a tight match. They made a few putts and we couldn’t quite buy one,” Rose said. “There were a lot of double breaking putts. They are tough to read because you’ve got to be spot on.”

Reed, known for his fiery style, sank a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-5 16th to close out the match, his fists pumping as the crowd roared.

“It was a lot of fun to be part of that match,” Reed said. “I live for those kind of moments. It just gets me going. I didn’t want to miss my chance.”

Third-ranked Rory McIlroy and England’s Andy Sullivan twice seized 2-up leads over Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, but the US duo won four of the last five holes for a 1-up victory.

“I felt more pressure than any Ryder Cup,” said Mickelson, who matched a record with his 11th Cup appearance.

“I didn’t play the way I wanted off the tee. We showed a lot of heart those last four holes to win.”

Mickelson parred to win the 15th and Fowler birdied the 16th to square the match. Sullivan found water off the par-3 17th tee while the US duo birdied to retake the lead for good.

“To finally get my first full point is great,” Fowler said.

PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker and two-time major winner Zach Johnson lost the second hole to Spain’s Sergio Gercia and Germany’s Martin Kaymer with a par and could not square the match until the 12th hole, but they won that and the next four in a 4 and 2 romp.

Walker birdied 13 and 14 and Johnson took 16 to end the match, then downplayed the US sweep.

“Lot of talent on both teams,” he said. “A lot of matches left. It is not like we were that far off. It is not rocket science. It is just getting back to the basics.”

US spectators screaming in support helped.

“It was quite the crowd,” Walker said. “I wasn’t prepared for it. It was quite intense early. Nothing in golf is like this.”

US Open winner Dustin Johnson and American Matt Kuchar led from the first hole in routing England’s Lee Westwood and Belgian Thomas Pieters 5 and 4.

“Any time we made a shot they put one in on top of us,” Pieters said.

“The way DJ hits the ball, I just try not to mess him up,” Kuchar said.

Four afternoon four-ball matches will follow with Saturday featuring four more foursomes and four-ball matches ahead of Sunday’s concluding 12 singles matches.

Europe needs 14 points to retain the trophy while the Americans need 14 1/2 points to take the Cup for the first time since 2008.