Darren Clarke’s defending champions battled back from the ignominy of a 4-0 whitewash in the morning foursomes matches at Hazeltine to end the opening day of the team contest just two points behind after rallying in the fourballs contests.
It was the first time the Americans had swept the opening session of the biennial competition since 1975 — and any session since 1981.
However, the European team has won six of the last seven titles despite not having won the opening session since 2006.
Nonetheless, US captain Davis Love III will take great encouragement as he plots his tactics and player combinations for Saturday’s foursomes and fourballs in Minnesota.
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed showed the way as they disposed of Olympic champion Justin Rose and British Open winner Henrik Stenson 3 & 2 in the first completed match of the day as mist and fog gave way to bright sunshine. However, they had less success in the fourballs, being crushed 5 & 4 by the Brit and Swede.
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Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker made it 2-0 to the US, beating Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer 4 & 2.
US Open champ Dustin Johnson bounced back from missing out on a $ 10 million FedEx Cup jackpot at the Tour Championship as he and Matt Kuchar thrashed English Ryder Cup veteran Lee Westwood and Belgian rookie Thomas Pieters 5 & 4.
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Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler clinched the whitewash against FedEx champ Rory McIlroy and English rookie Andy Sullivan, coming from behind to win 1 up.
Fowler described it as “a huge match” for the duo — he had never won in eight previous Ryder Cup matches, while Mickelson spent much of the week embroiled in debate about past controversies involving the US team.
“Both of us had a lot on our back out there this morning,” Fowler told CNN. “Not the start we wanted to get off to early in the match but we showed a lot of heart with a big comeback at the end, and I’m proud of my partner.”
They had trailed by two after 14 holes, but leveled and then took the lead on 17 when Sullivan found the water hazard.
“I fed off of Rickie today because I was playing a bit tight, I needed a little bit off assistance and he sensed that, he said the right things,” Mickelson, playing his 11th Ryder Cup, told CNN.
“That’s why we have a good rapport. We’ve known each other for a long time and played matches together for a long time, so we know when someone’s feeling a bit down to give them a bump up, and when someone’s feeling excited — like when Rickie made that putt after 16, I grabbed him and slowed him down.”
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Mickelson sat out the afternoon session as Love opted to give all of his 12 players some action Friday.
Clarke, a four-time winner as a player for Europe, left two of his six rookies — Englishmen Chris Wood and Matthew Fitzpatrick — on the bench for the fourballs.
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Rose and Stenson led the comeback with the opening point, but Brandt Snedeker — recalled after missing the 2014 defeat — and debutant Brooks Koepka thrashed two-time major winner Kaymer and new partner Danny Willett.
Willett, who won his first major title at April’s Masters, received predictable flak from the crowd following the article his brother wrote during the week that labeled US fans as “imbeciles.”
The veteran Garcia — this time teamed with fellow Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello, making his debut — won 3 & 2 against the new US pairing of Ryan Moore and JB Holmes to close the gap once again.
McIlroy and Pieters then wrapped up the day with a 3 & 2 victory over Dustin Johnson and Kuchar, keeping Europe in touch.
“We were bitterly disappointed at lunchtime,” Clarke told UK broadcaster Sky Sports. “They just didn’t play the way we know they can play this morning. America did, that’s the beauty of matchplay golf.
“To put in a performance like that this afternoon was scintillating. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
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Love, captaining the US for the second time after defeat in 2012, had been wary of getting too excited when talking to CNN after the opening session, stressing that there was “a lot of golf still to play.”
He told Sky at the end of play: “We had a great morning, we got beat by a team playing unbelievable golf this afternoon. Everyone was under par, they didn’t play bad — they just didn’t play great. The Europeans played great.”