KOHLER, Wis. (Reuters) -A red wave washed over the Ryder Cup on Friday as the United States dominated both foursome and fourball sessions to grab a commanding 6-2 lead over holders Europe for their largest opening-day advantage in the biennial event in a nearly half-century.
With U.S. results highlighted in red and Europe in blue on the Whistling Straits’s scoreboards, chants of “USA, USA” rang out across the striking links-style layout from dawn to dusk as 40,000 mostly American fans basked in a dominating performance by the United States not seen since 1975.
By winning both sessions 3-1, U.S. captain Steve Stricker’s men are nearly halfway to the 14-1/2 points needed to reclaim the small gold cup that will be hoisted by the winners on Sunday.
History is surely on the Americans’ side as they have never lost a Ryder Cup at home when winning the first session 3-1 or better. In fact, they are 11-0 under that scenario, but European captain Padraig Harrington remained defiant.
Play resumes on Saturday at 7:05 a.m. CT (1205 GMT) with foursomes again followed by afternoon fourballs.
“No doubt it was a tough day,” said Harrington. “There’s obviously still 20 points to play for.
“You can’t just turn around and try to eat into a lead straightaway in one session.
“It would be lovely if it happened, but you can’t think like that. You’ve got to do it slowly, one step at a time.”
The Americans, who boast an average world ranking of nine compared to 30 for Europe, were the heavy favourites, but few expected the largely inexperienced side to deliver such a poised performance.
Olympic champion Xander Schauffele produced another gold medal-worthy effort in his Ryder Cup debut, winning both his matches.
For the morning foursomes, Schauffele teamed up with Patrick Cantlay for a 5&3 win over Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, then in the afternoon was matched up with Dustin Johnson for a 2&1 win over Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger.
Sergio Garcia, who went out in the day’s first group with fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm, equalled Nick Faldo’s record for Ryder Cup match wins with 23, but that was the only highlight on what proved to be a rough day for the European side.
Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton birdied their final hole to halve their fourball match with Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler, another of six rookies on the 12-man U.S. squad.
Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland held on to tie Justin Thomas and Cantlay to earn Europe’s only other half-point.
Ryder Cup rookie Harris English and Tony Finau beat McIlroy and Shane Lowry 4&3 to give the United States their other full point in fourball.
“We can come back from 6-2,” said McIlroy, who lost two matches in a single day for the first time in six Ryder Cups.
Harrington sent his big guns of Rahm and Garcia out first in the morning foursome, hoping they would set the pace.
The two Spaniards did their part could not inspire those following.
In the second match, Johnson and British Open champion Collin Morikawa beat Casey and Hovland with a birdie at the par-five 16th for a 3&2 victory.
Brooks Koepka and American debutant Daniel Berger, in the penultimate match of the morning session, proved too solid for Europe’s Ryder Cup stalwart Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick, claiming a 2&1 win.
(Writing by Frank Pingue and Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris, Sam Holmes and William Mallard)