Ryder Cup 2018

Hot U.S. Start but Woods falters

Tiger Woods was paired with Patrick Reed during the opening Ryder Cup four-ball matches at Le Golf National in Paris yesterday. Their loss was the only blot on a fine morning for the Americans, who are defending their title but have not won in Europe
Tiger Woods was paired with Patrick Reed during the opening Ryder Cup four-ball matches at Le Golf National in Paris yesterday. Their loss was the only blot on a fine morning for the Americans, who are defending their title but have not won in Europe since 1993.PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite home fans' cheers, visitors take early lead as they chase first away win in 25 years

PARIS • France's Le Golf National erupted with huge roars as Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter led renditions of the Viking thunderclap - the signature celebration of the Iceland national football team - as the 42nd edition of the Ryder Cup got under way yesterday.

Basketball great Michael Jordan was part of the crowd that packed the 6,900-capacity grandstand wrapped around the first tee as hundreds more swarmed to the grassy banks encircling the tee box on the Albatros course, the first French venue to host the Ryder Cup.

The enthusiasm from the fans failed to rub off on the Europeans though, with the United States taking an early 3-1 lead after winning three of the four opening four-ball matches.

The US are chasing their first victory on the road in 25 years and, despite Tiger Woods making a subdued start to his first Ryder Cup in six years as he and partner Patrick Reed let a two-hole lead slip to lose 3 and 1 to Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood, Jim Furyk's team were able to grab the momentum against Europe.

While not quite as dominant a start as in 2016, when the Americans swept the opening session to take a 4-0 lead on their way to victory at Hazeltine, they still recorded their largest first-session lead in Europe since 1989.

Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau rallied to defeat Justin Rose and Jon Rahm 1 up, taking the lead for the first time at the final hole.

Rookie Finau saw his tee shot at the par-three 16th hit the wooden boards separating the green from the water, before spinning into the air and coming to rest three feet from the hole for a simple birdie.

"I like pulling those out when it really matters," he said with a smile.

Spaniard Rahm bogeyed the 18th and FedExCup winner Rose found water to hand the Americans victory. Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler then took command on the back nine to defeat Rory McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen 4 and 2.

McIlroy failed to make a single birdie in the better-ball format, and former European captain Nick Faldo labelled the Northern Irishman's display as "embarrassing".

And, in the wildest ride of the morning, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas went three up early against Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton on the strength of Spieth's putting.

They lost the lead before recovering to close out a 1-up win, when Spieth holed a three-foot par putt on the 18th after Thomas knocked his approach shot into the water.

"Playing Ryder Cups over here are extremely fun," said three-time Major winner Spieth. "We were able to feed off each other."

The one downbeat note for the Americans was the defeat of Woods and Reed. The 14-time Major winner had arrived in France the day after winning the Tour Championship, his first PGA Tour title in five years. But the pair ultimately could not keep pace with Fleetwood and Molinari, and captain Furyk chose not to use either in the afternoon alternate-shot session.

The Europeans, however, now have to defy history. Since 1975, the team who have won the first point have gone on to lift the trophy 79 per cent of the time.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2018, with the headline 'Hot U.S. Start but Woods falters'. Print Edition | Subscribe