Friday Foursomes Yield Four Full Points For Flying Europe!!!
Oh, you can’t beat a bit of ménage à quatre of a Friday afternoon!
Europe throttled Team USA in this afternoon’s foursomes, to complete an emphatic turnaround on Day 1 of the 42nd Ryder Cup, at Le Golf National, Paris!
Thomas Bjørn’s side now lead the American’s 5-3 going into Saturday’s second day of competition, having trailed 3-1 after the dismal morning fourballs.
The European Captain elected for experience in his afternoon pairings, and his gamble paid off handsomely. The visitors were blitzed in the alternate-shot format, with the Europeans triumphing by an aggregate margin of seventeen holes, but, more importantly, claiming four valuable points in the race to 14½.
The truth is, that bar Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson’s early forays to lead Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter by two holes after three, the American’s were simply abysmal, not able to navigate around the treacherous Le Golf National course in the moderate wind that had failed to show itself in the morning fourballs.
Indeed, by the time Dustin Johnson, playing in the afternoon’s first group out alongside Rickie Fowler, missed his second four-foot putt in the space of as many holes at the eleventh to hand Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson a five-hole lead, Europe held comfortable leads in the three remaining games behind on the course.
None more so, than in the contest between Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren and the American pair of Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau. In what was a quizzical pairing by US Captain Furyk, 48 year-old Mickelson, who has struggled for form throughout much of the tail end of the PGA Tour season, was partnered by Ryder Cup rookie DeChambeau, who himself mustn’t be feeling too great, having relinquished the FedEx title, and the small sum of $10 million, to Justin Rose at last weekend’s Tour Championship.
The European pairing, on the other hand, dovetailed impeccably through the opening nine, rattling home six birdies on their way to being seven holes up at the turn. We at Ball-X were getting excited, as it looked likely our pre-tournament tip of seven or eight holes being the tournament’s highest margin of victory was destined to bear fruit. Alas, a couple of wayward tee-shots put pay to our hopes of a payday, but that won’t bother Garcia and Noren – the Spaniard earning his tenth victory in his Ryder Cup foursomes career, closing the game out with a halve on the fourteenth, 5&4.
Stenson and Rose clinched victory on the sixteenth moments later, taking the sting out of a mini-revival from Johnson and Fowler on the back nine to close out the game 3&2.
The veteran duo, who have become one of the Ryder Cup’s most successful pairings in history, taking their tally to five points with today’s victory, were closely followed into the clubhouse by an equally synonymous pairing in Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.
The Northern Irish and English combo, who had teamed up for Saturday fourballs in both Medinah and Gleneagles in the past, remain unbeaten as a pair, eventually overcame Watson and Simpson 4&2, despite their faltering start. The game swung in the space of the final four holes of the front-nine. Two down reaching the sixth green, a relieved McIlroy rolled in a birdie putt to cut arrears to the minimum before the Americans could only manage a bogey five on the seventh. McIlroy was on hand again to birdie eight and the European lead was consolidated when the Americans again could only manage a bogey on nine.
After trading holes early on the inward nine, the killer blow came at the par-4 thirteenth, where McIlroy produced a superb approach, clawing the ball from yards under his feet and almost in a hazard, to pin high. Poulter dotting and crossing with the blade.
In this afternoon’s final match-up, Bjørn kept faith with his only successful pairing from the morning fourballs, sending Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood back into the heat of battle against USA’s ‘Golden Boy’ partnership of Justin Thoman and Jordan Speith. But the American youngsters could not repeat their scintillating form from the morning session, in the afternoon wind.
Fleetwood, who revelled in Friday’s boisterous cauldron of atmosphere, birdied the sixth from fifteen feet, and in doing so stretched the lead of the lovingly named “Mollywood” to three.
British Open champion Molinari was simply sublime over, what proved to be 31 holes today at the home of French golf, and he wrapped up an incredible afternoon for the ‘boys in blue’, sneaking his birdie attempt on the par-5 fourteenth through the right hand door.
The unbeaten pair have forged a strong understanding already it would seem, and they will hope to make it three-from-three in tomorrow morning’s fourballs, as they, once again go up against Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods.
Another two pairs that have been kept together for Saturday’s opening session are Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, who will hope to find Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler a little easier than they found Speith and Thomas in this morning’s match-up.
The ‘Golden Boys’ themselves are pitted against the pairing of Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm in the morning’s final group, whilst first up on tee at 8:10, will be Garcia and McIlroy against Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka, in a match where Europe will hope that Ryder Cup know-how, will, once again, prove decisive.