Europe has a mountain to climb in the 43rd Ryder Cup as they lost both sessions and plunged to a 6-2 deficit on the first day at Whistling Straits.
Padraig Harrington’s plan just never got started as he saw only Sergio Garcia of his hardened veterans contribute against the young American team. Garcia and Jon Rahm contributed the single win in foursomes and they scrambled a couple of half points in afternoon fourballs.
Rory McIlroy has to be in danger of being sat down for at least one session on Friday. The four-time major champion made little contribution in two losing appearances and looked deflated even playing with friend Shane Lowry in fourballs.
McIlroy’s Ryder Cup record is not that exceptional by European standards. But he had never lost both games in the same day in six Ryder Cups. His two matches never even got to the 16th tee.
Europe were simply outplayed. Birdies and putts are what counts in Ryder Cups most of all and the Europeans were nowhere near the numbers made by the US side, the youngest and highest-ranked they’ve ever fielded.
Only one team – the USA in 1999 – has come back from a 6-2 deficit after the first day.
Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger lost to Xander Schauffele and Dustin Johnson 2&1
The plan was for Casey to mind another rookie in fourballs, but Harrington did seem to miss a trick by putting him and Wiesberger out first against a confident Schauffele and Johnson.
The Austrian birdied the first – for a half – and got a win at sixth with a birdie, but that was to get back to two down. Schauffele had done the early work for the US but the Euros wrestled back to one down after nine.
Then DJ decisively came in, and with a vengeance. He fired in birdies at 10, 11 and 12 to restore the US duo’s three-up lead. Casey and Wiesberger battled to go as far as the 17th but no further.
Tyrrell Hatton and Jon Rahm halved with Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau
🎙️ "That's not real. That is UNBELIEVABLE!" 😳
Bryson DeChambeau hits a sensational 417-yard drive off the tee! 🤯
Absolutely incredible! #RyderCup 🔥🔥🔥
— Sky Sports Ryder Cup (@SkySportsGolf) September 24, 2021
Dechambeau’s incredible 417-yard drive at the fifth was the headline, and he won that hole in eagle. Rahm was quiet compared to the morning and Hatton kept Europe’s duo in it until the world No 1 holed for birdie at the ninth.
Scheffler won the tenth in birdie, but Rahm fired into six feet and holed it at the 11th to square things up again.
A par at 15 was enough to give the Americans a one-up edge coming down the stretch. It proved to be the first game to go down the 18th, where Hatton salvaged a half point with a brilliant approach to seven feet for a birdie three.
Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry lost to Tony Finau and Harris English 4&3
Would McIlroy find the spark? Maybe at the fifth where his 25-foot eagle putt took the Irish pair one-up.
But he and Lowry were struggling as Finau, one of the better Americans in Paris, birdied six and nine. US rookie English weighed in with a two at the eighth, and Finau had his fourth birdie in six holes at 10 to take the US three-up.
Finau continued his brilliance with a long par save at 11 and another birdie at 13 to go four-up, and that was that. A listless McIlroy plunged to his second defeat of the day with Lowry not able to help.
Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland halved with Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 24, 2021
Fleetwood’s absence in the morning looked like a mistake. He and Hovland overcame the loss of the first hole to be three up after eight and good value for that.
Thomas explosive reaction to his long birdie putt at nine perhaps showed his frustration, but Fleetwood then missed two good chances to stretch the Europeans lead.
Cantlay nearly holed his tee shot at the 12th to get back to one down. But while Fleetwood kept the the Europeans’ noses in front for a while, he hooked one into the lake at 16 as Thomas eagled to square the match.
After a nervy half in threes at 17, there was an even more nervous half in fours at 18 and the point was shared.