The Euros were strong in the morning session, but were not at their best. The USA put out four poor efforts, with either mismatched or underperforming duos. There has been an increased focus on the bottom of the European roster (Bobby Mac, Hojgaard, Lowry et al) and the overall strength of the USA side from one through 12. But in the morning, some of the U.S. captain’s picks were complete anchors and played a large role in the early deficit.
The attention paid to the Justin Thomas pick let Zach Johnson’s Sam Burns selection fly under the radar. Burns was a classic “buddy system” choice, brought along to pair with his friend Scottie Scheffler. Burns has never had great success outside of a specific region of the U.S. and wasn’t exactly in form coming into September. Then there were rumblings of short game concerns in practice. It all came out in the first match of the entire Cup, where Burns clearly weighed down Scheffler, the USA’s top-ranked player. That cannot happen. You cannot have your best talent dragged down by someone rocketing shots in every direction all over Italy. We could see Burns sit until Sunday singles.
Another captain’s pick, Rickie Fowler, was nearly just as ineffective as Burns. Fowler is not unfamiliar with being a part of Ryder Cup asskickings, having been a part of the preceding three losses on European soil. Fowler, playing with Collin Morikawa, let the Burly Boy pairing of Sepp Straka and Shane Lowry, who were average and most vulnerable in the session, off the hook. He hit several loose shots and missed five putts inside of 10 feet, a majority of which would have won the hole. Rickie is a good guy and a malleable player, but he stuck out in an all-around ugly opening session for the Americans.
The USA showed some competitiveness in the afternoon, but the theme for this Ryder Cup was set from the very first hour as the Euros put the Americans on their ass in a rare clean sweep of the first session. It was an immediate reminder of the almost mystical effect that playing at home has for the Europeans. Somehow, events just seem to pile up in their favor.
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