Sweep, then almost swept.
That describes the U.S. team’s opening day at the Ryder Cup. The Americans won all four of Friday morning’s foursomes matches, then nearly got shut out when they dropped three of four in the afternoon fourballs.
The momentum swing left Europe trailing 5-3, but encouraged captain Darren Clarke enough to shoehorn the last two of his six rookies into Saturday morning’s foursomes sessions. Asked whether he’d rather have a small lead or the momentum, Clarke thought about it for a moment.
“As I’m sitting in my seat right now, in the position we were in at lunchtime (down 4-0), I would definitely say … momentum,” he said. “Because we didn’t have much at lunchtime.”
Here are some things to watch heading into Day 2 at Hazeltine:
CROWD CONTROL: More than 50,000 fans flocked to Hazeltine on Friday, the vast majority of them wearing stars and stripes and cheering for the Americans. They were also cheering hard against the Europeans, imploring them to “hit it in the water!” and taunting rookie Danny Willett, whose brother penned an essay earlier in the week that was critical of American golf fans. The day ended with Rory McIlroy returning the favor, bowing after a 20-foot eagle putt on No. 16 finished off Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar. McIlroy was asked if he thought the gesture would incite even more hostility on Saturday. “No worries on my part,” he said with a grin. “I bowed to them and said, ‘You’re welcome for the show,’ and we move on.”
A LITTLE FAITH: Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed got the Americans off to a rollicking start with a 3-and-2 victory over Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose on Friday morning. They had a rematch in fourball in the afternoon and lost 5 and 4 despite posting six birdies in the first 11 holes. Davis Love III kept them together for a third straight match on Saturday morning, when they will face Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello in the final match of the foursomes.
WESTWOOD RESTS: Lee Westwood is playing in his 10th Ryder Cup and is 2 1/2 points away from breaking Nick Faldo‘s career Ryder Cup record. But the Englishman struggled mightily in his morning match with rookie Thomas Pieters, a 5-and-4 loss to Johnson and Kuchar. After the match, Westwood asked Clarke, his close friend and former Ryder Cup partner, to not consider him for play in the afternoon so he could work on his game on the practice range. Westwood is not among the pairings in foursomes on Saturday morning. “Lee’s a standup man and he didn’t have any reservations about telling me the truth, as indeed would any member of my team,” Clarke said. “But his information to me was such that he would prefer to hit some more balls” before playing again.
DEBUT TIME: Love played all 12 members of his team on Friday. Clarke decided to sit rookies Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood the entire day. Both newcomers will make their Ryder Cup debuts on Saturday morning in foursomes. Fitzpatrick is paired with Stenson in the second match against Brandt Snedeker and former Florida State star Brooks Koepka. Wood will play with Rose in the third match against Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson. “They are almost like waiting for Christmas,” Clarke said. “They want to go and play. They didn’t get the opportunity (on Friday) and I didn’t want to hold them back anymore.”
FAN ENGAGEMENT: Snedeker had a scary moment on Friday when his tee shot on No. 9 hit a female fan in the head. The ball hit the woman in the glasses, and she was down for several minutes before Snedeker signed the ball for her. “She said, ‘I’m fine. Just go win this thing,'” Snedeker said. “So when I heard her say that, I’m like, ‘I’m good to go.'” Snedeker also sent a warning to fans who will be watching him on Saturday. “Unfortunately, when you drive it as crooked as I do sometimes, you get to know a lot of the fans that way,” he said with a sheepish smile. “Hopefully she understands.”
Republished with permission from the Associated Press.