by Ronan MacNamara
Tony Finau by Golffile
Tony Finau made a remarkable eight threes in thirteen holes as he and Harris English completed a 4&3 rout over Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry in the Friday fourballs to help the US roar into a 6-2 lead and condemn Europe to their worst start to a Ryder Cup since the format changed in 1977.
European fans would have been hopeful that tougher weather conditions would have yielded better fortunes for Pádraig Harrington’s charges but things ended up going from bad to worse as the afternoon wore on. In the end they were unable to win any of the afternoon matches and came away from a disastrous day with just one win from eight.
Finau who won at the Northern Trust earlier this month held a six-footer for par on 15 to move the hosts 4-1 in front.
It capped off a dismal day for McIlroy who was simply nowhere near good enough on the opening day and once again raised questions over his ability under the pressure of the big occasion.
It’s the first time the Holywood native lost both matches in the one day at the Ryder Cup and leaves his run of playing all five sessions in doubt.
The second point of the afternoon went the way of Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele who completed a comfortable 2&1 win over Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger to stretch the lead for Steve Stricker’s charges to 5-1 and leave Europe needing two wins from the remaining two matches on the course.
The US fans abandoned their syllabicate chanting to in fact steal a European chant such was the confidence of the home support as chants of ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ rang out at various points of the day.
We were treated to an extremely tight match that pitted Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler against world number one Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton. It was a match that grew in significance as the evening went on.
The highlight of the day was DeChambeau’s stunning eagle on the par-5 5th where his 417-yard drive and 72-yard pitch set up the easiest of threes.
In a match that was nip and tuck for the majority, momentum was firmly with the US when DeChambeau held a four-footer to go 1UP on Rahm and Hatton after 15 in what had become a must win match for Harrington’s side.
As it looked like the US might go dormie two in the match, Jon Rahm showed why he is world number one and drained his birdie putt before Scheffler rescued the half to keep the pair 1UP with two to play.
Hatton hit the most beautiful putt on the 17th from 25-feet but it lipped out and it meant the Europeans could do no better than a half point from their match which condemned Europe to at least their joint worst start in the Ryder Cup since 1977.
To their credit Hatton stiffed his approach to seven-feet on 18 – the first match of the day to go the distance - and Rahm replied with a solid approach of his own to give themselves two good looks at birdie.
Hatton emphatically drained his putt to set up rare jubilant scenes for the Europeans.
With the score at 5.5-1.5 all eyes turned to the match between Tommy Fleetwood/Victor Hovland and Justin Thomas/Patrick Cantlay which Europe desperately needed to win to have even a slither of hope never mind belief.
Fleetwood should have all but put the result beyond doubt as he passed up two five-foot putts on 11 and 12 to extend Europe’s lead to 3UP and they were hit with a double whammy when Cantlay stitched his approach on 12 to kick in range to suddenly close within one.
The match took another swing in the favour of the stars and stripes when Thomas hit a stunning 3-wood into the par-5 16th before Hovland semi-topped his and Fleetwood snap hooked his approach into Lake Michigan.
JT drained his eagle putt and sent the home fans into raptures to firmly punish the wastefulness of the Europeans around the turn.
Neither pairing were able to find a winning birdie over the final two holes as the match was halved, leaving Europe a distant four points back after the opening day.
We had the famous concession in 1969 and 2021 could be known as the procession unless Harrington can galvanise his wounded team.
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