2016 Ryder Cup day 1 round-up: USA charge stymied by Europe comeback
Simon Sinclair | October 1, 2016
There was no shortage of excitement on the opening day of the 41st Ryder Cup as both the USA and Europe played some splendid golf at Hazeltine.
The first half of the day belonged to the States as they completed a whitewash in the foursomes, racing into a four-point lead at the interval.
However, Darren Clarke’s men responded to pull within striking distance due to a series of strong displays in the afternoon fourballs.
USA dominate the morning foursomes
The pairing of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed proved to be an inspired decision by Davis Love III, sending the duo out first against two of Europe’s top players from 2014 – Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose.
Spieth holed two birdies in the early stages of the round, and the US never relinquished the lead, despite the best efforts of the European duo to turn the momentum on the ninth hole. The world number four and his partner were relentless, while capitalising on poor putting from Rose to close out the win on the 16th.
Their performances would inspire the rest of the American card as Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar overwhelmed the pairing of Lee Westwood and rookie Thomas Pieters 5&4.
Europe thought they would have points on the board as fine play from Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan put them 2up, but a US comeback from Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler overturned the deficit to secure 1up victory on the 18th.
Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia were also looking fairly in control of their match against Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson, but another US resurgence shocked Clarke’s men as they collapsed on the back nine, losing 4&2.
European fightback in the afternoon session
Clarke kept faith in the duo of Stenson and Rose to deliver in the afternoon session as they were faced off against Spieth and Reed once again.
On this occasion Europe got the early momentum and were able to turn the screw thanks to the brilliance of Stenson.
The Swede’s approach play continually put the US pairing on the back foot, forcing them into several errors down the stretch that allowed Rose to seal the winning putt on the 14th.
Clarke put the two Spaniards in his team out next as Rafael Cabrera-Bello made his Ryder Cup bow alongside Garcia. The 32-year-old made his intentions clear with a fine birdie on the first and he and his compatriot never looked back from their as J.B Holmes and Ryan Moore were blown away.
Moore attempted to make a game of it on the final stretch of the back nine, but the European duo held out for the win on the 16th at 3&2.
Danny Willett came to the tee to boos from the American crowd following comments made by his brother about the backing of the home supporters. His debut didn’t go to plan as Brooks Koepka and Brandt Snedeker produced outstanding golf to blitz the Englishman and Kaymer in a comfortable win.
USA needed the point from the third pairing because of McIlroy and Pieters’ form in the afternoon. The duo played extremely well together and fended off the talented pair of Dustin Johnson and Kuchar, although the Americans attempted to rally late on.
McIlroy saw off the challenge with an eagle on the 18th after producing the shot of the day on his approach. He then sank the putt before bowing to the American supporters, bringing back memories of Ian Poulter’s defiant effort four years ago in Medinah.
Looking ahead to today’s play
Love III has named pairings that delivered success for him on day one, starting with Mickelson and Fowler. The duo had no business winning their foursomes match, and will have to improve when they face off against McIlroy and Pieters.
The Northern Irishman appeared to be relishing the contest and along with the steady hand of Pieters, the Europeans are backed at evens to defeat their opponents, while the US pairing have odds of 7/5.
One of the surprising success stories of day one was Snedeker and Koepka, with the rookie producing an excellent round. Their task will be a tough one as Stenson is deployed against them with Matthew Fitzpatrick making his bow, boasting an impressive temperament.
Clarke’s men are backed to triumph at 4/5 and should the Swede maintain his form that should be a solid bet, although the uncertainty of Fitzpatrick’s play could see the US claim the point. They have odds of 23/20, which is enticing given their impressive outing on Friday.
Walker and Zach Johnson return to the tee after missing the afternoon session and, although they pulled the victory out the bag on the back nine, Love III will want to see more from the duo. Chris Wood will make his debut alongside Rose, and it will be interesting which side of the veteran turns up in the morning session.
Should the 2013 US Open champion deliver his best then 13/10 for a Europe win could be a wise bet, although the US are favourites at 11/10. A halve comes in at 11/2, which could be a winner as there is little to choose between the teams on paper.
Last but not least, Love III unleashes his favourite pairing of Spieth and Reed to close out the morning session. Fatigue appeared to be an issue towards the end of day one, but they should be well rested for action against Spaniards Cabrera-Bello and Garcia.
It will be a close one to call, and you would think that Clarke would be delighted with a half at 11/2. Love III will want his golden dup to fire another point on to the scoreboard at 19/20, which should they fire like they did yesterday is a strong possibility.
The odds have shortened on a US victory from 4/7 on Thursday to 4/9 as of the close of play, suggesting that the home side are locked in to win the competition for the first time in eight years.
Today’s play will be key in deciding the outcome, although both teams have shown a propensity for a comeback in the singles. It may be a wise bet to back Europe at 13/8 to claim day two given the way that momentum appeared to turn towards the end of the day.
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Stay tuned for the wise words of Coral’s guest blogger Steve Palmer, who will be dropping useful tips throughout the tournament.