Europe golfer Ian Poulter and Europe golfer Rory McIlroy celebrate on the 15th green during the Ryder Cup Friday afternoon matches at Le Golf National.

USA Today Sports Images

Liguori: European Team Leads American Team 5-3 After Day One Of Ryder Cup

Ann Liguori
September 28, 2018 - 2:25 pm

After the U.S. Team dominated the morning fourballs session, winning three of the four matches, the European Team came back with a vengeance in the afternoon alternate shot session and shut-out the Americans, winning all four matches. It's the first time Europe ever swept the foursomes in a Ryder Cup.

Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy dominated Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, 4&2.

Sergio Garcia, who hasn't done much since winning The Masters in 2017, and Alex Noren made a huge statement against Phil Mickelson and Ryder Cup rookie Bryson DeChambeau, crushing them 5&4. Both Mickelson and DeChambeau sat out the morning session.

Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood, who were the lone European team to win in the morning session, destroyed Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, 5&4, in the afternoon session.

Finally, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose took out Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, 3&2.

What an answer from the Europeans in the afternoon session after the Americans got off to such a fine start in the opening session!

"We believe in it as a group and there were a few guys sitting out this morning that you normally see in the first session but they were very keen to go and play this afternoon and prove that we are a team and we do it with all 12," said Thomas Bjorn, the Captain of the European Team. "That was the plan through the whole week. We wanted to get everyone on the golf course today and we did that."

On believing in Sergio, who was a controversial Captain's pick this year because of his shaky season, Bjorn said: "I believe in Sergio. I've said all along, it's not only what he does on the golf course, it's what he is for the whole team. Today he came out and played great and did what we know Sergio can do. But that's what you expect of him in this kind of event." 

"I've always said it, Ryder Cup, there's nothing like it," said Garcia, playing in his ninth Ryder Cup. "I've got an amazing partner. He played amazing." Noren, a Ryder Cup rookie, said he'd "never been this nervous throughout the round. You know, it's so special. I didn't know how special it waas going to be until you step on the first tee and you've got to pull of the shots."

>>MORE: Liguori: There's Ryder Cup Frenzy Despite The French's Disinterest

In the morning session, the Americans won three of the four matches. Thousands of spectators filled the huge Grandstand behind the first tee box and lined the first fairway in time for the first match. 3-time Major champion Brooks Koepka and Ryder Cup rookie Tony Finau against world's No. 1 Justin Rose and Jon Rahm got started at 8.10 a.m. Europe time.

The cheers from the packed Grandstand were well-mannered and not as loud as we’ve come to expect from Ryder Cup venues.

Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler dominated Rory McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen, 4&2, to put the very first point of these Ryder Cup matches up for the USA.

McIlroy looked terrible in the morning session. He did not sink one birdie. He struggled off the tee and with the putter. Oleson had only one birdie.

Koepka and Finau came from behind to beat Justin Rose and Jon Rahm, 1 up. Rose and Rahm were 1 up thru five holes before Finau pitched in for eagle on the 6th. The Americans then bogied the 7th while the Europeans parred; Rahm drained a birdie on the 7th. Europe went 2 up at that point. Koepka birdied the 11th. Europe, 1 up.

On the par 3, 16th, Finau’s ball bounced off a bulkhead between the green and the water, landing 4 feet from the hole. A birdie there made the match All Square.

And then Koepka birdied the 18th to win the match!

“I feel like it was a big point, swinging that one, because it looked like they were going to win the match pretty much the whole way through, especially when we got 2-down, and to come back and be able to flip it like that was really a two-point swing,” said Koepka, after the morning session ended.

Finau added, “Rosey and Jon played incredible. They played incredible golf. They scored better than us for the first 12 holes. I think a big part of the reason Brooks and I are paired together and we played well, is just our attitude. Just not giving up. We kept telling each other, just, you know, just keep one hole at a time. Let’s try to get back in this thing and see if we can stretch this match out. We were able to do that, and you know, he played incredible golf when I needed him to on the back nine. He birdied 10. He birdied 11. Had a look for birdie on the 14th. Incredible par on the 15 with me in the water…”

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth bested Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, 1 up. Spieth played lights-out with three birdies on the front. Casey and Hatton got hot on the back but Spieth said they ‘ham and egged it’ for the win.

But Tiger Woods, playing in his first Ryder Cup since 2012 and fresh off his win last Sunday at the Tour Championship, and Masters champion Patrick Reed lost their match to Ryder Cup rookie Tommy Fleetwood and Open Champion Francesco Molinari. Molinari made back-to-back birdies on holes 11 and 12 to square the match; Fleetwood dropped birdies on holes 15 and 16 and then Molinari closed out the match with a birdie on 18 for the European win, 3 &1.

US Captain Jim Furyk sat Tiger and Reed out in the afternoon session.

But Finau, even though this is his first Ryder Cup, got it right when he said, “It’s a great start by any means… 3-1 is a great start..there’s still a lot of golf to be played, but to get off to this start on European soil I think is a big deal for us.”

There was so much talk about the Americans having a stronger team on paper -- 9 Major winners, along with the fact that the European team has 5 rookies -- and how the U.S. Team would dominate. I always professed this Ryder Cup would be hotly-contested. And the Europeans showed just how tough they are. 

History has shown they do well in the alternate shot format. They play this course every year as Le Golf National hosts the French Open and they know how to deal with the wind here that picks up in the afternoon. They showed excellent resiliance and shot-making.

The Americans will need to step it up come Saturday to fight off the European momentum.

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori.