USA takes lead at Ryder Cup

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — The first point of the Ryder Cup belonged to Europe and its fearsome new Spanish Armada. The rest of the opening session belonged to the Americans, just like usual.

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, tough as ever in foursomes, won the first five holes and closed with four straight birdies for a 5-and-3 victory over Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.

“I don’t know if anyone could have beat Xander and Patrick today,” McIlroy said.

“They played really good — four birdies in a row. Geez, yeah, they played great.”

The Americans won the two matches in between, not trailing on the back nine of Whistling Straits in either of them, and built a 3-1 lead going into afternoon fourballs.

That makes seven straight times the Americans have not lost the opening session. Three years ago in France, they also had a 3-1 lead only to get shut out that afternoon as Europe cruised to another decisive victory.

In a strange twist, neither captain kept any of the teams together — even Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, the lone bright spot for Europe in foursomes.

Rahm looked every bit like the No. 1 player in the world by rolling in putts from everywhere as he and Garcia seized control around the turn and held on to beat Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, 3 and 1.

Garcia earned his 23rd win, tying Nick Faldo for the Ryder Cup record.

Spieth and Thomas, who were 3-1 in France, couldn’t keep up with Rahm’s great putting. Garcia got into the act, too, holing a 25-foot putt and blowing a kiss to the crowd on the 15th hole for a 3-up lead with three holes to play.

Spieth tried to extend the match with a shot that was as much about the landscape of Whistling Straits than the Ryder Cup.

Well below the green left of the par-3 17th in deep grass, he blasted a 52-degree wedge toward the green, a shot with such force that his momentum carried him backward. The safe move was to keep running, almost to Lake Michigan, before he could regain his balance. It was all for naught; Thomas missed the 6-foot par and that was it.

Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa, who have combined to win three of the last seven majors, fell behind briefly against Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland until winning two straight holes to regain the lead on the front and two straight holes early on the back nine in a 3-and-2 victory.

Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger, both Florida State alumni, never trailed in beating the English duo of Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick, 2 and 1.

“They did play well, so I’m not unhappy with that,” Europe captain Padraig Harrington said. “They have done their job. It wasn’t their morning. Let’s hope it’s their afternoon.”

U.S. captain Steve Stricker watched it all unfold and had close to a dream start. But he stuck to his plan for the afternoon, and there were a few surprises.

He split up Cantlay and Schauffele — Cantlay was with Thomas, while Schauffele was paired with Johnson — and then put in all four players who sat out in the morning.

Harrington did the same — Rahm was with Tyrrell Hatton, while Garcia sat out fourballs. Poulter also sat out, with McIlroy and longtime friend from Irish golf Shane Lowry in the lineup.

Everyone will have played on the first day.

The Americans see this Ryder Cup as crucial to change the tide in what has been European dominance for the last quarter-century. They have six rookies and their youngest team.

“It’s just the first session,” Garcia said. “A lot of things can happen. We have a good session this afternoon and everything is back to normal.”


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