Ryder Cup Day 1: Europe scores first, USA roars back

·3-min read

You couldn't ask for a finer day to start a Ryder Cup: bright skies, gentle breezes, a pristine Whistling Straits golf course. Oh, and the crowds — up and at it before dawn, singing "Sweet Caroline" in the minutes before the first match teed off — had an impact as well. Shouts of "U-S-A!" echoed all across the Wisconsin countryside, but it was a formidable team from Europe that drew first blood in the early foursomes matches. In the end, though, the United States claimed the final three matches of the morning round to seize definite, but by no means decisive, control of the Ryder Cup. 

Jon Rahm/Sergio Garcia def. Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth, 3&1

The No. 1 player in the world verified his status with authority, thumping the heralded JT/Spieth pairing with putt after long-distance putt. Garcia held up his end of the bargain and tied for the winningest player in Ryder Cup history with Nick Faldo with the victory, but this was all Rahm's show. He set up the 41-year-old Garcia, and followed up Garcia's graceful irons with pinpoint greens work. 

Rahm, the overwhelming favorite to be the top scorer on either team at +333 going into the tournament, proved worth the wager:

The match did feature one of the finest shots in recent Ryder Cup history, as Jordan Spieth hit a nearly vertical approach shot that sent him tumbling toward Lake Michigan but ended up just a few feet from the hole. 

Unfortunately for Team USA, Thomas couldn't convert the short putt, and Europe notched its first point of the Ryder Cup.

Total score: Europe 1, USA 0

Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa def. Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland, 3&2

This was a brilliant pairing by USA captain Steve Stricker, with the cannonlike boom of Johnson off the tee matching well with the sterling iron play of Morikawa. The Americans snagged the first hole, surrendered two straight on 3 and 4 to go down 1 ... then reeled off four points over the next eight holes to put the Europeans on the ropes. From there, it was only a matter of time. As with Rahm/Garcia on the European side, DJ/Morikawa made for a formidable pair. 

Total score: Europe 1, USA 1

Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele def. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter, 5&3

Woof. This was a straight-up stomping. Cantlay and Schauffele took advantage of the two European Ryder Cup legends to scoot out to a 5-hole lead in the first five holes. Neither McIlroy nor Poulter looked particularly sharp, and the duo didn't even win a hole until the 10th. By then, it was far too late, and the Americans closed out the Europeans on the 15th hole. 

Total score: USA 2, Europe 1

Brooks Koepka/Daniel Berger def. Lee Westwood/Matthew Fitzpatrick, 2&1

This was the tightest match of the bunch, with Koepka and Berger never quite able to put Westwood and Fitzpatrick in the rear-view mirror. They traded blows on the front nine, ending even at three holes apiece. But then the Americans stepped on the gas and won three of the next seven holes outright to claim the final match of the morning. 

Total score: USA 3, Europe 1

KOHLER, WI - SEPTEMBER 24: Jon Rahm of Spain and team Europe and Sergio Garcia of Spain and team Europe on the first hole during the AM Foursome Matches for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 24, 2021 in Kohler, WI. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)
KOHLER, WI - SEPTEMBER 24: Jon Rahm of Spain and team Europe and Sergio Garcia of Spain and team Europe on the first hole during the AM Foursome Matches for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 24, 2021 in Kohler, WI. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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