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Sep 25th, 2021

2020 Ryder Cup: USA dominate day 1

McIlroy weakest link as Europe struggles to stay with Team USA

Team USA opened with their most significant lead after day one of a Ryder Cup against Europe by winning both of Friday's sessions 3-1 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. The last time a team earned 3 or more points in each of the first two sessions was in 2004, when Team Europe went 3½-½, 3-1 at Oakland Hills on its way to a 18½ -9½ victory on foreign soil.

The omens are not good for Europe as the only time that a team has failed to win the Ryder Cup after earning six or more points on Day 1  was the "Battle of Brookline in 1999 when Team Europe led 6-2 after Day 1 and 10-6 after Day 2.
On day one, the American crowd had much to cheer about as Bryson Dechambeau boomed it off the tee, DJ looked in imperious form, and the American rookies showed no sign of nerves as they piled on the points.
The only highlight for Europe was the performance of the Spanish duo of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, who beat Team USA's star pairing of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas 3&1 in the opening foursomes match.
Europe could only find two half points in the afternoon fourballs as the wind got up and made conditions challenging.
After a fantastic iron shot, Tyrrell Hatton holed a gutsy 10-foot birdie putt to win the 18th and earn half a point for himself and Jon Rahm. 
Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland also picked up a half-point after a hard-fought battle against the strong pairing of Patrick Cantlay and Justin Thomas.  Europe had raced into a three up lead early in the match but were pegged back by the Americans.

Apart from these successes, there was little to cheer about for Europe on day one. Rory McIlroy looked out of sorts from the get-go and it was surprising that Harrington stuck with his plan for the afternoon matches as the Irish pairing of McIlroy and Lowry were soundly beaten by English and Finau.
Europe captain Padraig Harrington sought to put a positive spin on the situation.
"Our ball striking was good, we just didn't hole the putts," said Harrington. "No doubt it was a tough day. It isn't a good start, but there's still 20 points to play for."
It was true that the Americans holed a lot more clutch putts particularly mid-session in the afternoon fourballs where Team USA took command.
It was interesting that neither captain stuck with the same pairing for both morning and afternoon sessions. The formula worked for US Captain Steve Stricker but questions should be asked of Harrington.
Given the strong performance of Rahm and Garcia in the morning it was a strange decision not  to put them out first in the afternoon. It was also interesting that Harrington kept faith in McIlroy as, to many observers, he was the weaker link in the defeat of him and Ian Poulter in the morning foursomes.
McIlroy is to be rested for the first time in the Ryder Cup on Saturday morning and arguably he should be dropped for the day. 
It's a long way back for Team Europe and we have seen 'miracles' before but this US Team is looking solid.

TAGS: Ryder Cup, 2020, 2021