- Team Europe started the Ryder Cup with a first ever perfect morning
- Captain Luke Donald praised his team for delivering a ‘sensational’ performance
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Europe seized control of the Ryder Cup against a disease-hit American team on a historic first day in Rome.
Luke Donald’s men responded to their 2021 thrashing with a first-ever perfect morning before a determined afternoon produced a barely believable score of 6.5-1.5 – the joint-highest lead the competition has seen at this stage.
In front of a rapt, raucous crowd, the hosts held off the shell-shocked Americans to win one game and record another brilliant first-place finish.
Delighted Captain Donald described the fantastic Friday as ‘sensational’ and a ‘dream’.
However, there were mixed emotions in a stunned American camp, where captain Zach Johnson revealed there was a mysterious insect that had “spread through my team.”
Luke Donald (right) praised Europe’s dominance on the opening day of the Ryder Cup
Donald (right) watched as his team stormed to a first-ever perfect morning session
LIV rebel Brooks Koepka also bizarrely accused Spaniard Jon Rahm, who pierced a 25-foot eagle to take a draw in his fourball on the 18th, of behaving like a child.
“I want to hit a board and pout just like Jon Rahm did,” said a deflated Koepka. “But you know what, it is what it is. Act like a child. But we are adults. We go on.’
They will have to move on quickly. Europe flew out of the blocks to torch their foursome opponents on a sweltering morning in the Italian countryside. At no point did the US have a lead in any match.
And as the visitors looked set for a spirited second leg from 4-0 down, Viktor Hovland, Rahm and Justin Rose all hit crucial putts on the 18th green to take half points for Europe in the fourballs.
“Those putts made a huge difference,” said Englishman Donald. ‘It was sensational, a dream start for us. This morning there was a great performance from the boys and this afternoon it was tough. The US came back, we knew they would. They had a piece in the middle when the momentum turned their way, but man, did we turn it back.”
A somber Johnson described the disease as “congestion.” “It’s not an excuse because we have depth,” he added. “But I just want to say, I’m grateful that we have a team doctor.”
There was little wrong with Rahm and High Wycombe’s Tyrrell Hatton, who strolled first to a 4&3 win, which was matched by Norway’s Hovland and Swedish youngster Ludvig Aberg.
Irishman Shane Lowry and Austrian Sepp Straka were 2&1 winners, and in the bottom match Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Southport’s Tommy Fleetwood achieved the same margin of victory.
Viktor Hovland (right) was one of Europe’s best stars on the dominant day one in Rome
Jon Rahm was the star of the European line-up as he guided a crucial 23-foot putt on the final hole in the afternoon
Justin Rose sank a putt on the 18th to prevent the US from winning a single hole on day one
In the only win for either side on a hotly contested afternoon, Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick broke his Ryder Cup duck in style. Last year’s US Open champion sank four birdies and an eagle from the second hole in a stunning surge that ensured he and McIlroy were never in danger against Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele.
The European duo secured the point with a dominant 5&3 victory, delighting the 50,000-strong crowd.
A beaming Fitzpatrick welcomed the support from the home support. “Unbelievable,” he said. ‘Absolutely unbelievable. It’s a lot better than playing away, that’s for sure. The energy you get from it is enormous.’
Europe’s lead of 6.5-1.5 is the highest after day one, on par with Europe’s in 2004 and the US in 1975.