Team Europe leads the Ryder Cup 5-3 after Day 1 at Le Golf National. It was a tale of two sessions in Paris. The United States jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the morning four-ball matches. In the afternoon, Europe stormed back, sweeping the United States in foursomes (alternate shot) to gain the two-point advantage. Match scores
The good, the bad and the ugly
Europe’s Foursomes – The Europeans have been dominant in the alternate shot format for decades, but today’s 4-0 sweep was the first ever. Europe’s stars showed out with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson teaming up to move their all-time record to 5-2. Ian Poulter paired with Rory McIlroy to go to 5-1 in the foursomes format in his career. Sergio Garcia teamed with rookie Alex Noren to tie Bernhard Langer for the most foursomes wins of all-time (11). Europe’s pairings seem to naturally fit the format, and the U.S. trotted out some questionable pairings (more on that later) for the format that rewards consistent ball-striking and play.
They go together like ham and meatloaf – Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari were fantastic winning in both sessions. The pair dispatched “Captain America” Patrick Reed and some guy named Tiger in the morning fourballs. Following that up with a dusting of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in the afternoon. Each are among the ten best ballstrikers in the world and are a nightmare pairing to face off against.
Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau – Despite never leading in their match against the formidable pairing of Justin Rose and Jon Rahm, the pair managed to pull out a win in the opening match. The rookie Finau was particularly impressive down the stretch, using a fortuitous bounce to lead a comeback win.
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth – The new team paired to dispatch Hatton – Casey 1-up in an exhilarating match. The teams counted 17 birdies, with Spieth and Thomas nudging past the Englishman with a birdie on 15. Some pundits were worried about Spieth’s split from Patrick Reed, but it worked out quite well. In fact, Spieth played as well as we have seen in 2018 and appeared to enjoy partnering with his “good friend”.
Coverage – Or should I say commercials? Listen, I understand the need to make money, and this is a high-profile event and opportunity, but how about mixing it up a little? I don’t need the Bridgestone Khatuna Lorig ad shoved down my throat for 10 hours. A little variety would go a long way.
Coffee is for closers – The Tiger Woods – Patrick Reed pair was the only American L in the morning fourballs session, and it was a tough back nine. After storming out to a hot start that featured six birdies in their first 10 holes, the high profile pairing failed to make a birdie on the last 8, losing 3&1 to Tommy Fleetwood.
American golf – One of the reasons for the European dominance in the alternate shot format is their familiarity with it. In Europe, foursomes is a common practice. It allows a group of four to play faster and a different format than the traditional hit-every-shot slog. Do yourself a favor this fall and try out playing alternate shot, it’s fun.
Le Golf National – Abundant water hazards, narrow fairways and thick rough are the dominant characteristics of this year’s host course. The Ryder Cup is the event where the course matters least, but it’s not fun watching the world’s best take drops and chip out in a format that can yield brilliant recovery shots. The course has wonderful infrastructure and viewing options for fans, but the design is a disaster.
Captain Furyk – It was a tough afternoon for Jim Furyk, who trotted out a number of questionable fourball pairings. Most notably the teams of Phil Mickelson – Bryson DeChambeau and Bubba Watson – Webb Simpson forced fans to scratch their heads. Ignoring both Mickelson’s dismal recent form and a historic record in foursomes led to a match that was over before it ever started. At the turn, Mickelson and DeChambeau were down seven to Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren. Hopefully we don’t see Phil till Sunday singles.
Statistically, Webb Simpson is one of the strongest alternate shot players on the American team. He’s steady from tee to green and can roll the rock. Those are qualities that have never been used to describe Bubba Watson’s game. The pair fell 4&2 to Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy, moving Bubba’s Ryder Cup record to 1-7 on foreign soil.
Bubba and Phil are both examples of players who fit the four ball format, where their streaky play and propensity to make birdies in bunches can shine. It’s inexplicable to play them in an alternate shot format on a golf course like Le Golf National with the options the U.S. team had on the bench.
Shotgun Start: Ryder Cup Day 1 reactions: We are who we thought we were
Andy and Brendan deliver some instant reactions from the first day of matches in Paris. They critique some puzzling lineup decisions from USA captain Jim Furyk that played at least some part in the biggest blowout session in Ryder Cup history. Bubba and Phil are called onto the carpet. Then they review some of the positive from the morning session, as well as the European fan behavior. Finally, they look forward to Saturday’s lineups and discuss who they would like to see try and stop this alternate shot disaster. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify.
Looking ahead to tomorrow
Coverage kicks off again at 2am EST with morning fourballs matches.
Until tomorrow… USA.