As soon as Patrick Reed took to the first tee on Friday morning at Hazeltine National, you had a feeling that this session would belong to the Americans. He cupped his ear and motioned for the crowd to whip it up. They did and the U S of A followed suit – a 4-0 sweep of the morning matches. Dominance coming, right? Yeah, right.
There’s a reason why the Europeans have won eight of the last 10 of these things – these guys don’t quit. In the afternoon, Darren Clarke’s team made the charge that was expected, taking three of the four matches to cut the American lead to two points headed into Day 2:
MATCH OF THE DAY
Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters (Europe) vs. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar (United States)
Afternoon Four-Ball, Europe wins 3 & 2
All four of these players went out in the morning session and left wildly different impressions. Rory looked like he was pressing, trying to carry Andy Sullivan who struggled, and the duo ended up getting clipped by Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. Meanwhile, DJ and Kuchar whipped Pieters and partner, Lee Westwood. But McIlroy and Pieters might’ve found something that the Euros can use for the rest of the weekend. He showed flashes of the dominance that we’ve seen for the past month. And draining that eagle putt to close out the match? It was eerily similar to Ian Poulter’s reaction on Saturday in 2012, something which has to be giving DL3 some nightmares.
Patrick Reed, United States
Yeah, yeah, we know that he and Jordan Spieth got smacked around by the law firm of Rose-Stenson in the afternoon session, but forget that for a second. It’s beyond clear that Reed is the pulse of the American team. He keeps the emotion level high, gets the crowd going, and genuinely seems to be capable of matching the passion that the Euros are always showing.
Martin Kaymer, Europe
If there’s one weak link in the European chain, it has to be Kaymer, who has not look comfortable at all so far. He and Sergio Garcia coughed up a 1-up lead with seven holes to play – as Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson (who seemed to be stalled until that point) won five straight holes to take the match 4 & 2. Then in the afternoon, paired with Danny Willett, he was blasted 5 & 4. Remember, this was a guy who was 1-1-2 in 2014, and only played 16 holes before winning the cup-clinching match in 2012.
Spanish Armada 3.0
First it was Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. Then it was Olazabal and Sergio Garcia. Now, it’s Sergio looking for his future Ryder Cup pupil who can take the mantle. He may have one in Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who paired with Garcia for a 3 & 2 win over Ryan Moore and J.B. Holmes in the afternoon. Sergio is one of those guys who is already dangerous in this event – give him a partner (and countryman) he feels even better with? Look out.
Holding Danny Willett until the afternoon
As we said yesterday, had we been in the captain’s chair for the Euros, Willett would’ve been in the 2nd or 3rd group in the morning. But Clarke held him out, and frankly he was the target of the crowd from the start – then was the target of Brandt Snedeker (!) and rookie Brooks Koepka (!!). We wouldn’t be surprised if he’s used sparingly for the rest of these matches.
KEEP AN EYE ON…
Reed-Spieth anchoring the morning matches
Trotting out the best American team first on Day 1 was perfection by DL3. Doing the same in the afternoon didn’t work out so hot. But as the Americans look to build their lead entering Saturday, having the fiery duo close out the morning sessions is a savvy call.
MOMENT OF THE DAY
Arnold Palmer’s 1975 Ryder Cup bag
The PGA of America and the Ryder Cup have done a fantastic job honoring Arnold Palmer after the game’s legendary figure passed over the weekend. But a terrific touch was having Palmer’s bag from the ’75 Ryder Cup team he captained to victory standing right off the first tee. It was an extra special piece of history to see, and a great way to honor a man who helped build this (among many) event.
Saturday AM Foursomes
Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson (U.S.) vs. Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters (Europe), 7:35 a.m. CT
Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka (U.S.) vs. Henrik Stenson and Matthew Fitzpatrick (Europe), 7:50 a.m. CT
Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson (U.S.) vs. Justin Rose and Chris Wood (Europe), 8:05 a.m. CT
Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth (U.S.) vs. Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello (Europe), 8:20 a.m. CT