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The Ryder Cup is underway and after a thrilling day of action around Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Team Europe have a commanding lead over the USA. The European performance over both foursomes and fourballs was so strong that the USA are yet to win a match and they will need a huge performance on Saturday if they are to have any chance of retaining the Ryder Cup.
The pairings for the morning foursomes were announced on Thursday and Zach Johnson raised eyebrows when he elected to leave out Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka. Those concerns were validated when Europe won every single match in the morning to take a 4-0 lead into the afternoon.
For the afternoon, both captains made changes to ensure that every single player had taken part on day one. Spieth, Koepka, Thomas and Clark came in while Hojgaard, Rose, MacIntyre and Matt Fitzpatrick came in for Europe. In a more even session, Europe still came out on top which has left them with a 6.5 – 1.5 lead going into day two.
Ryder Cup 2023 standings after day one
|Rahm/Hatton||4 & 3||Scheffler/Burns|
|Åberg/Hovland||4 & 3||Homa/Harman|
|Lowry/Straka||2 & 1||Fowler/Morikawa|
|McIlroy/Fleetwood||2 & 1||Schauffele/Cantlay|
|McIlroy/Fitzpatrick||5 & 3||Morikawa/Schauffele|
Day one highlights
Foursomes delight for Europe
The day couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for Europe when they ran as emphatic 4-0 winners in the morning foursomes sessions. As the home captain, Luke Donald had switched the Ryder Cup format so that the day opened with foursomes rather than fourballs given Europe’s dominance in the format and the switch more than paid off.
The fiery duo of Rahm and Hatton kicked things off with a four and three victory over Scheffler and Burns while Ryder Cup rookie, Ludvid Aberg, earned his first point alongside Viktor Hovland when they beat Homa and Harman by the same scoreline. An early chip in from Hovland, who is playing better golf than anyone in the world right now, set the tone and they never looked back.
In match three, the unfancied Lowry and Straka proved the doubters wrong by defeating Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa with a hole to spare, despite some late wobbles from Lowry. Then, in the final match of the morning, McIlroy and Fleetwood secured the clean sweep with a two and one victory over the previously unbeaten pairing of Schauffele and Cantlay.
The American pair, who were imperious at the most recent Presidents Cup, threatened a late comeback against Fleetwood and McIlroy but a dagger of a putt from Fleetwood from distance on 15, which was shortly followed by a dart from McIlroy at the par three-17th, extinguished those hopes.
We go again tomorrow Forza Europa 🇪🇺💙 #TeamEurope
— Tommy Fleetwood (@TommyFleetwood1) September 29, 2023
Clutch putting in the fourballs
After a dismal display in the foursomes, Zach Johnson rang the changes ahead of the afternoon fourballs with USA already desperate for points. Out came Harman, Cantlay, Fowler and burns and in came Spieth, Thomas, Clark and Koepka.
Spieth and Thomas were paired together for the opening fourballs match and they were tasked with taking on Hovland and Hatton. In a match that ebbed and flowed, the 18th hole was finally needed and with it came the clutches of puts from Viktor Hovland on a sloping green to tie the match after some heroics from Justin Thomas on the back nine.
The second match was perhaps the most eye-catching. Jon Rahm and rookie Rasmus Hojgaard took on world number one, Scottie Scheffler, and five-time major champion, Brooks Koepka. While Hojgaard started nicely, by the back nine three of the biggest names in the sport were flexing their muscles. The match also went the distance with Rahm rescuing half a point for Europe with an incredible 33-foot eagle putt to sting the Americans.
🚨🏆🇪🇺 EAGLE ON 18 FOR JON RAHM!! 🦅#TeamEurope LEADS 6-1… ☠️
— NUCLR GOLF (@NUCLRGOLF) September 29, 2023
McIlroy and Fitzpatrick had a straightforward victory over Schauffele and Morikawa, with the European duo boasting a six-point gap at one point. The third match, however, was a nail-biter that looked to all the world like it would go the American way. However, following some poor shots down the stretch, they let the Europeans back in and Justin Rose made them pay when he sunk a huge putt on 18 to send the crowd into a frenzy.
Thomas vindicates his selection
Although the day belonged to Europe, one man who stood up for Team USA was Justin Thomas. Not many people thought he was worthy of his selection this week and when he was left out of the morning sessions, those voices only got louder.
Despite that, he showed tremendous talent, grit and spirit to go head-to-head with Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton in the afternoon. With his partner, Jordan Spieth, having a shocker of a round, Thomas was effectively left to fend for himself but he came up with several huge putts and inch-perfect wedge shots to keep the Americans in the hunt.
In the end, he will be disappointed that he only took half a point from the match. However, if nothing else, his performance on Friday should serve as a reminder to everyone about just how good he is.
Ryder Cup 2023 updated odds
- Team Europe – 1/6
- Team USA – 6/1
- Tie – 14/1
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