Europeans overcome early deficit to take Ryder Cup lead

Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood the stars of day one – Courtesy of Getty Images

Europe has defied the odds, bouncing back from an early opening day deficit to lead the Ryder Cup at the end of day one.

The Europeans will take a 5-3 lead into the second day of the event at Le Golf National after losing the morning Fourball match-ups 3-1.

The Europeans whitewash of the Americans 4-0 in the afternoon Foursomes sent signals to the Americans that if they want to successfully defend their 2016 victory and take the Ryder Cup back to the USA they have a lot of work and soul searching to do.

The shining light for Captain Thomas Bjørn’s European side was the performance of Open Champion Francesco Molinari and 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood. The pair defeated Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods 3&1, avoiding the possibility of a whitewash in the first session as seen at Hazeltine in 2016.

That same pair easily accounted for Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in their afternoon Foursome match.

European captain Thomas Bjorn was understandably delighted with the turnaround and singled out the pairing of Fleetwood and Molinari as the catalyst for the team’s afternoon heroics.

But while that combination was the shining light of the morning for the Europeans all of the pairings excelled in the afternoon

It was a bit of a roller coaster ride, to be honest. We were obviously disappointed with this morning. I think a couple of guys came in and felt like they couldn’t get out of the matches what they wanted. There was a good feeling about going out and trying to do something this afternoon, pretty much the way before I got on the golf course, to be honest. So it was a great afternoon.

“This morning session could easily have finished 2-2, but it could also have been a whitewash the other way, and obviously that makes a difference; that [Fleetwood & Molinari] stand up in the end and holes the putts on 15, 16, 17 to win the match when it really matters. It gives them belief, but also gives their teammates hope.”

It was the first ever occasion that a European aside had won all four matches in a foursomes session and the first time since 1989 that such has been achieved in any session.

A no doubt shell-shocked US captain, Jim Furyk, was putting as positive a spin as possible on the result of day one but there will be a lot of soul searching over the next 12 hours as the combinations for tomorrow afternoon foursomes are resorted in an endeavour to establish more successful combinations.

“You know, you’ve got to look at it, we played for eight points so far out of 28. The event’s still pretty young. We’ve got one more team format tomorrow and then the singles. Eight out of 28, you know, pretty small percentage of this golf tournament been played.

“In medal play, you can shoot 68 and 78, and you’re down ten shots and you’ve got to try to make that up for the next three days, right. In match play, you can make a 10 on a hole and the other guy makes a 3 and you only lose one hole. You can make that up the very next hole. Kind of the same thing with these matches, you lose 6&5, you lose 2&1, it’s still the same result, correct?

“We have to shore things up, and I’m guessing we’ll switch things up in the afternoon tomorrow. We’ve already been thinking about that.”

While all match outcomes now become crucial, the most interest tomorrow morning will be the rematch between Americans Woods and Reed and the unbeaten Fleetwood and Molinari. The Americans will be keen to atone for their loss on day one.

The modern era Ryder Cup has often proved to be a roller coaster over the opening two days so all is not lost for the Americans but there is a little doubt a shot was fired across the bows of the side that is on paper at least the strongest of the two.

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