Amer­i­cans sweep be­fore Europe ral­lies

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

CHASKA, MINN. >> The United States had the lead. Rory McIl­roy made sure that was all it had Fri­day in the Ry­der Cup.

The Amer­i­can sweep of the open­ing ses­sion of matches at Hazel­tine was all but for­got­ten when McIl­roy rolled in a 20-foot ea­gle putt, took a bow on the 16th green and de­liv­ered a de­fi­ant mes­sage to the crowd and to the U.S. team des­per­ate to win back the cup. Europe isn’t go­ing any­where. “I’m not fazed by any­thing that is said by the crowd,” McIl­roy said. “And I’m not fazed by any­thing that the U.S. team throws at us.”

The Amer­i­cans threw a hay­maker with the first open­ing-ses­sion sweep in four decades. Europe bat­tled back from that 4-0 deficit be­hind its best tan­dem, Hen­rik Sten­son and Justin Rose, and it’s best player. McIl­roy buried the ea­gle putt, calmly bowed twice to the crowd and then punched the chilly Min­nesota air with his fist.

U.S. cap­tain Davis Love III at least could take con­so­la­tion in a 5-3 lead, though the Amer­i­cans wasted a chance to put Europe in a big hole.

“It’s frus­trat­ing not to come out a lit­tle bit more ahead,” Love said.

McIl­roy had heard enough af­ter some 10 hours be­fore what he de­scribed as a hos­tile crowd. He and Thomas Pi­eters never trailed against the pre­vi­ously un­de­feated tan­dem of Dustin John­son and Matt Kuchar. McIl­roy fin­ished it with his ea­gle putt, and he a chance to give some­thing back to the fans.

“Even be­fore I hit that putt, I wanted to put an ex­cla­ma­tion point on that ses­sion for us,” he said. “I ac­tu­ally thought about the cel­e­bra­tion be­fore I hit the putt. I knew it had a good chance of go­ing in . ... I just wanted ev­ery­one that’s watching out there to know how much this means to us, how much it means to me per­son­ally and ob­vi­ously, us as a team. We’ve pulled it back a good bit. And we plan to pull it back even fur­ther go­ing into to­mor­row.”

Love could not have scripted a bet­ter start — a sym­bolic one, too.

To honor Arnold Palmer, who died Sun­day, Ry­der Cup of­fi­cials placed on the first tee Palmer’s golf bag from when he was cap­tain of the 1975 Ry­der Cup team. Jor­dan Spi­eth and Pa­trick Reed then set the tone with a 3-and-2 four­somes vic­tory over Sten­son and Rose, and the Amer­i­cans de­liv­ered the first sweep of the open­ing ses­sion since that 1975 team at Lau­rel Val­ley.

Phil Mick­el­son, feel­ing more pres­sure than usual be­cause of his in­flu­ence on changes and on this team, also pro­duced big shots. His wedge into 5 feet that Rickie Fowler con­verted was key in the Amer­i­cans win­ning three straight holes for a 1-up vic­tory over McIl­roy and Andy Sullivan. It just didn’t last. The Amer­i­cans still had the lead. Europe headed into the sec­ond day loaded with mo­men­tum.

“It would def­i­nitely say it’s bet­ter to have a small deficit with some mo­men­tum,” Euro­pean cap­tain Dar­ren Clarke said. “Be­cause we didn’t have much at lunchtime.”

Beaten for the first time, Rose and Sten­son went right back out against Spi­eth and Reed and handed the Amer­i­can duo its first Ry­der Cup loss. The Euro­peans made nine birdies in 13 holes for a 5-and-4 vic­tory in an af­ter­noon ses­sion in which the board was filled with Euro­pean blue.

Ser­gio Gar­cia teamed with fel­low Spa­niard Rafa Cabr­era Bello to dis­man­tle J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore. McIl­roy and Pi­eters never trailed against John­son and Kuchar, hand­ing them their first loss in four Ry­der Cup matches.

The lone Amer­i­can point in the af­ter­noon came from Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, who had no trou­ble against Martin Kaymer and Danny Wil­lett.

Wil­lett had a lit­tle trou­ble with the crowd, es­pe­cially when they lam­pooned him around Hazel­tine with ref­er­ences to hot dogs and his brother, Pete, who had writ­ten a col­umn in a Bri­tish pub­li­ca­tion dis­parag­ing Amer­i­can gal­leries.

“It was an­tic­i­pated,” Wil­lett said. “Com­ing to Amer­ica is a tough one, just like when the Amer­i­cans come to Europe. They gave me a lit­tle bit more. I think it was ex­actly what we thought it was go­ing to be.”

It wasn’t just di­rected at Wil­lett, how­ever.

The crowd was loud and bois­ter­ous from the open­ing tee shot in misty con­di­tions. There were a few rude com­ments, not un­usual in Amer­ica for a Ry­der Cup. Most strik­ing was how quickly the crowd cheered bad shots for Europe. Typ­i­cally, there is the slight­est de­lay. Not on Fri­day. Sullivan, one of six rook­ies for Europe, hit his tee shot into the water on the 17th that put Europe 1 down and ef­fec­tively ended the match. The crowd cheered be­fore there was a rip­ple.

That’s what in­spired McIl­roy in the fi­nal match of the day.

The ques­tion for Satur­day and an­other round of four­somes and four­balls matches is how the Amer­i­cans re­spond. Lead­ing: United States is up 5-3 af­ter the first day of play. Flip-Flop Day: The U.S. won the four morn­ing matches, and Europe came back to win three of the four af­ter­noon matches. Sweep: The morn­ing sweep was the first in the open­ing ses­sion since 1975, and the first in any ses­sion since 1981. Arnie Re­mem­bered: Arnold Palmer’s golf bag when he was cap­tain in 1975 was placed on the first tee. Play­ers also wore um­brella pins in his honor. Palmer died Sun­day. Match of the Day: Phil Mick­el­son and Rickie Fowler were 2-down with four to go against Rory McIl­roy and Andy Sullivan. They birdied 16 and 17 en route to a 1-up win. Shot of the Day: Rory McIl­roy’s 4-iron to 20 feet on No. 16 for an ea­gle that clinched the fi­nal point for the Euro­pean team. Key Stat: It was the first time since 1979 that only one match reached the 18th hole. No­table: Four of the last five times the U.S. has led af­ter the first day it has lost. Only the 2008 team went on to win. Key pair­ings: Rory McIl­roy and Thomas Pi­eters against Rickie Fowler and Phil Mick­el­son, Ser­gio Gar­cia and Rafa Cabr­era Bello against Pa­trick Reed and Jor­dan Spi­eth. Quotable: “I bowed to them, said, ‘You’re wel­come for the show,’ and we move on.” Rory McIl­roy, on bow­ing to the crowd af­ter clinch­ing the fi­nal point. Tele­vi­sion: Tele­vi­sion (all times EDT): Satur­day, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (NBC).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.