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U.S. makes opening statement with 6-2 lead at Ryder Cup

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It was a strong start for the United States in the quest to regain the Ryder Cup, with the host team roaring out to 6-2 lead over Europe after Friday’s competition in front of a boisterous crowd at a wind-swept Whistling Straits along the shore of Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, Wis.

Already, the Americans seemed to have accomplished so much.

“This is a great start, but the job’s not over,” U.S. golfer Bryson DeChambeau said. “We have two more days, a lot more golf, and we cannot lose our mindset.”

The United States started the three-day event by becoming just the eighth team with a lead of four or more points after the opening day. Only one of those previous seven teams — Europe in 1999 — failed to win the biennial event.

It was the largest Ryder Cup lead after the opening day in 46 years when the U.S. led by five in 1975.

The U.S. team won three points in the morning and repeated that in the afternoon.

“We’re trying to do that in every session,” U.S. captain Steve Stricker said. “Just win the session. But when you can get off to that good a start it’s definitely a bonus and have momentum on our side.”

The U.S. team of Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele topped Paul Casey of England and Bernd Wiesberger of Austria 2 and 1 for the first afternoon point in four-ball matches to highlight a dominating day.

Harris English — playing in a team event for the first time in 10 years — and Tony Finau added to the U.S. lead, taking a point from Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Shane Lowry of Ireland with a 4 and 3 decision.

“I love pressure,” Finau said. “You have to in Ryder Cup situations. I have a great time in these atmospheres.”

A significant boost for the U.S. team came from Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay in the final match of what was nearly a 12-hour day. They were down three after eight holes against Tommy Fleetwood of England and Viktor Hovland of Norway, but never lost another hole, pulled even at No. 16 and earned the half point for a tie that resonated like a victory.

The U.S. needs to reach 14 1/2 points to recapture the Ryder Cup after Europe won in 2018. This current event was postponed from 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The putting of Spain’s Jon Rahm was about the only thing that saved the European side from a larger deficit. The world’s No. 1 ranked player ended up earning 1 1/2 of Europe’s two points on the day. Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton of England earned a tie with Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau in the afternoon four-ball matches when Hatton made a birdie putt on the final hole.

Still, the Europeans rarely gained much traction.

“We stuck to the plan,” European captain Padraig Harrington said, referring to his decision on afternoon pairings.

The United States’ impressive showing in the afternoon came after a strong showing in the morning alternate-shot matches.

Johnson and Collin Morikawa earned a 3 and 2 victory against Casey and Hovland before Cantlay and Schauffele completed a 5 and 3 rout of McIlroy and Ian Poulter of England.

“I don’t know if anybody could have beat Xander and Patrick today,” McIlroy said. “They played great — four birdies in a row. All you can do is praise them for the way they played.”

The U.S. team kept its lead when the morning matches wrapped up with Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger defeating England’s Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick 2 and 1.

Europe was on top only briefly when Rahm and Sergio Garcia of Spain topped Thomas and Jordan Spieth 3 and 1.

Spieth managed to deliver the shot of the day in the loss with a chip up a steep embankment to set up a par putt at 17. Spieth lost his balance in the process and stumbled toward the lake before stopping his momentum. But his effort was not rewarded when Thomas missed the short putt as Rahm and Garcia wrapped up the match.

“Once I started moving, I was like, ‘I’ve got to keep moving until I find a flat spot,'” Spieth said.

There were good vibes all around for the Americans.

“I just loved it. It was so fun, every part of it,” Morikawa said.

Temperatures were around 50 degrees when both teams teed off for the morning rounds.

Saturday’s competition calls for the same combination of matches before 12 singles matches Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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