KOHLER, Wis. — The United States followed a solid foursomes performance with an equally dominant fourballs session to grab a commanding 6-2 lead over Europe in difficult scoring conditions at Whistling Straits on Friday.
The Americans, were favored in the biennial event but few expected the largely inexperienced side to grab their largest Day 1 lead since earning a five-point cushion in 1975.
By winning both sessions 3-1, Steve Stricker’s American team is nearly halfway to the 14 1/2 points needed to reclaim the Ryder Cup.
Europe’s Sergio Garcia, who went out in the day’s first group with fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm, equaled Nick Faldo’s record for Ryder Cup match wins with 23 but that was the only highlight on what proved to be a rough day for the European side.
“We can come back from 6-2,” said Rory McIlroy, who lost both his matches.
After a near-perfect morning for the United States, the hosts padded their lead when Ryder Cup rookie Harris English and Tony Finau beat McIlroy and Shane Lowry 4 and 3. Moments later Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele secured a 2 and 1 win over Bernd Wiesberger and Paul Casey.
Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton birdied their final hole to halve their match with Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler, one of six rookies on the 12-man U.S. squad.
Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood were in control of the day’s final match heading into the turn but an eagle at the 16th by Justin Thomas, who was playing with Patrick Cantlay, capped a solid run by the Americans who went on to halve the match.
Playing in front of a home crowd lacking much in the way of European support due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the hot start by the United States included impressive performances from Ryder Cup rookies Cantlay and Schauffele.
The duo won their first five holes during a commanding 5 and 3 defeat over McIlroy and Ian Poulter in the anchor match of the foursomes session to give the hosts a 3-1 lead.
“Making birdie on the first, dream start,” said reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Cantlay.
“A start like that, I’m really glad we kept our nerve and kept our foot down and really phased them out early.”
History is surely on the Americans’ side as they have never lost a Ryder Cup at home when winning the first session 3-1 or better. In fact, they are 11-0 under that scenario.