By Thomas Dodd
- Europe win three our of four points in afternoon fourballs to cut deficit at end of day one of 2016 Ryder Cup
- Sergio Garcia/Rafa Cabrera Bello, Rory McIlroy/Thomas Pieters and Henrik Stenson/Justin Rose all post wins to leave USA leading 5-3 heading into weekend
- Captains Davis Love III and Darren Clarke now face challenge to pick best pairing for crucial morning foursomes on Saturday
HAZELTINE NATIONAL, MINNESOTA, AMERICA- Europe came roaring back in the first afternoon session of the 2016 Ryder Cup to reduce the arrears to the United States after day one of competition.
Facing an uphill task following a morning whitewash in the foursomes, Darren Clarke’s men came out determined in the fourballs and produced a series of battling displays to bring the deficit down to two and leave the US leading 5-3 ahead of the weekend.
Despite still having 24 points to fight for the Europeans could ill-afford another defeat in the session and were headed superbly by lead pair Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, who gained revenge for their earlier defeat to Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth by overcoming the pumped up American pair 5&4.
It was the first loss as a Ryder Cup pairing for Spieth and Reed.
A sensational run of birdies around the turn, including a near ace at the par-three eighth gave Europe the momentum, and Rose rolled in a birdie putt to give the visitors their first point on the 14th hole.
The States responded moments later by increasing the lead back to four, when Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka thrashed Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett 5&4.
For Kaymer it was another defeat to go with his morning foursomes loss, and for Willett it was a baptism of fire on his Ryder Cup debut.
The 2016 Masters champion was mildly booed on the first tee in light of derogatory comments towards the American crowds made by his brother in an article in a UK golf magazine earlier in the week.
Hazeltine National was relatively subdued for most of the afternoon, as all four matches witnessed big margins between the respective sides.
Spanish pairing Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello teamed up perfectly to dispatch Ryan Moore and J.B Holmes, who rallied after the turn to briefly worry Clarke’s matadors before eventually falling to a 3&2 defeat on the 16th green.
The day’s final match provided the drama in fading light, as Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar fought back from four down against Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters to pull within two after a birdie at the relatively short par-four 15th.
With the home side starting to sense some momentum, McIlroy – who had arguably played second fiddle to his inspired Belgian opponent for the majority of the round – stepped up on the par-five 16th and rifled a long iron 225 yards to just 25 feet before rolling in the eagle putt to secure Europe’s crucial third point of the session at the very close of play.
Clarke must now decide who to keep in the clubhouse for tomorrow morning’s pivotal foursomes, with rookies Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick still to take to the course for the Europeans.
Saturday will see the teams play out over the same format as Friday, with four foursomes matches in the morning before four fourballs matches in the afternoon, setting up nicely for the twelve singles contests on Sunday.
The opening matches tomorrow will tee off at 7.35am (1.35pm GMT), with the afternoon session getting underway at 12.30pm (18.30pm GMT).
Friday Afternoon Fourballs Results:
Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed lost to Henrik Stenson/Justin Rose 5&4
Ryan Moore/J.B Holmes lost to Sergio Garcia/Rafael Cabrera-Bello 3&2
Brandt Snedeker/Brooks Koepka def. Martin Kaymer/Danny Willett 5&4
Matt Kuchar/Dustin Johnson lost to Rory McIlroy/Thomas Pieters 3&2
41st Ryder Cup after Day One:
United States 5
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