Friday’s opening two sessions of the Ryder Cup could not have been more different. In the cool morning at Le Golf National, the Americans seized the opportunity, utilizing their ball striking and putting to take a 3-1 lead. But in the afternoon, Europe got to work to give the home crowd a lot to cheer about. They never gave the Americans a chance in the alternate shot foursomes. For the first time in Ryder Cup history, the Europeans would win all four Foursomes matches against the Americans, taking a 5-3 lead heading into Saturday.
“We know it’s a marathon, and we’re delighted with the way the day turned out because it was a fairly tough morning,” said European Captain Thomas Bjorn. “They wanted to go out and prove something this afternoon, and that was nice to see, but it says a lot about the group.”
Europe’s Veterans Shine in Ryder Cup Foursomes
When Captain Bjorn selected Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson as captain’s picks, it came with a large amount of criticism. Garcia has not made a cut of a major championship since he won The Masters in 2017. Henrik Stenson has been battling injuries and has not won a tournament since 2017. And Poulter has always been a streaky player.
But when it comes to the Ryder Cup, these three golfers always raise their games. After being down 3-1 this morning, Bjorn decided to roll with his veterans, hoping that they would be the motivation to turn this Ryder Cup around in Europe’s favour.
The Captain’s gamble had paid off. Garcia, Poulter, and Stenson all won their respective matches by a large margin. Garcia, who was paired with rookie Alex Noren, halved the opening hole against Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau. The European pair then went on a tremendous run winning seven of the next eight holes, ultimately winning the match 5&4. Garcia’s Ryder Cup record now improves to 20-11-7 and ties Bernhard Langer for most points earned in foursomes (11.5).
“I’ve always said it, Ryder Cup, there’s nothing like it,” stated Garcia. “I’ve got an amazing partner. He played amazing. I think the front nine we played, in foursomes and on this course with the wind blowing, was spectacular.
Ian Poulter was the inspiration needed to lift up a bummed Rory McIlroy, who lost his opening Four-Ball match without recording a birdie. After going two down early to Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, Poulter and McIlroy locked in, showcasing their tremendous ball striking and emotion to win 4&2.
“It’s been a long time since I played a Ryder Cup,” said Poulter. “Four years is a long wait. But the second I got going this morning, I felt good. It’s great to play with Rory. The buzz around the golf course is just incredible.”
Like Poulter was for McIlroy, Henrik Stenson made the impact in getting Justin Rose back on track in the afternoon, after losing on the final hole against Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau in the morning. Stenson and Rose are no strangers to playing with each other at the Ryder Cup. The last two Ryder Cups they have been paired together six times, winning four times. Today was no different, as they dominated Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler at alternate shot, winning 3&2.
“Obviously when you go out against the world’s best players on the other side, you deserve nothing,” said Rose. “You are to earn every point. Nothing is given out there. For me to come out and play with Henrik, someone I’ve had a lot of success with on the golf course is the perfect scenario for me.”
Americans Can Take Positives Into Saturday
Despite the Americans getting swept in the Foursomes matches, there are positives that can be taken heading into the Saturday session. Tony Finau and Justin Thomas, two rookies at the Ryder Cup, held their own, winning two of their three matches. Jordan Spieth, who had not played the week before in the TOUR Championship, looked brilliant in his morning Four-Ball match, starting to get the putter working again.
But clearly Captain Furyk has to assess what went wrong in the Foursomes matches and get that fixed. Perhaps it was a mistake to play Phil Mickelson or Bubba Watson, who both had trouble hitting the ball in the fairway. Maybe playing Brooks Koepka in the afternoon would have made sense, given that he was demonstrating tremendous shotmaking off the tee and making clutch shots.
The advantage Captain Furyk and Team USA have is that there are still 20 matches left in the Ryder Cup. When down two points in the first session in the past, Team USA has come back to win the Ryder Cup twice before. So Team USA has no reason to worry other than focusing on playing solid golf and making the putts.
“I think our guys will respond, I really do,” Furyk said hopefully. “Obviously, it’s going to leave a sour taste in their mouth tonight and they have to sleep on that. We’ll come back tomorrow, and I bet we’ll be fine.”
Predictions for Saturday Four-Ball Matches
Europe has every reason to be riding high heading into Saturday. They just swept Team USA in the Foursomes. It appears that they found their dream pair in Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari. But the Americans are going to come into tomorrow’s matches with a lot to prove. They will be ready to go with a chip on their shoulder, looking to make a move to prepare for singles on Sunday. Here are my predictions for tomorrow’s Four-Ball matches.
Match #1: Brooks Koepka-Tony Finau vs. Rory McIlroy-Sergio Garcia (US)
Match #2: Dustin Johnson-Rickie Fowler vs. Paul Casey-Tyrell Hatton (US)
Match #3: Tiger Woods-Patrick Reed vs. Tommy Fleetwood-Francesco Molinari (Europe)
Match #4: Jordan Spieth-Justin Thomas vs. Ian Poulter-Jon Rahm (Half)
Score Heading Into Saturday Foursomes: Europe 6.5 – US 5.5