September 30, 2016
Ryder Cup 2016 – Day One
Surprise, then a possible knock-out, then game on! Today's opening matches had all the twists and turns of a heavyweight boxing match. The USA came out and landed solid punches that had the European's reeling. Momentum was heavy on the American side. The crowds were going crazy. Up 4 points to none in the morning and for the afternoon Four-Ball competition, who is going to beat the Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar combinations? Give the USA two more points and then hope to get a point from the other two teams. Not to be. The seemingly unbeatables were trounced and except for a stellar performance by Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, the Ryder Cup would be knotted up.
The morning Foursome matches are generally the USA's weak format. Who expected the pairing of Ricky Fowler and Phil Michelson to play so well in an alternate ball scenario? Phil hit his driver in wild positions and yet Ricky recovered. Down two with four to play, they won three straight and tied the 18th for a one up win. I'm pretty sure that Darren Clark, the European Captain, had that in the win column on the 15th tee. That was a major blow. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed continued their dominance. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar overpowered their opponents. Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker looked like a weak pairing, but after a shaky start, they got stronger and more confident as the match went on and coasted to an easy victory. Now to the afternoon and to place the European's in a deeper hole.
No way! Spieth and Reed were steamrolled by Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. Through 14 holes, Justin and Henrik were 9 under par with Stenson hitting quality shot after quality shot. Final score was 5 and 4, but it wasn't even that close. Our next invincible team of D. Johnson and Kuchar caught the team of Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters making six birdies and one eagle. Kuchar made no birdies until the last hole, but lost that hole to Rory's eagle. Again a match that was over early and no contest. The Europeans played 10 of their 12 man team, holding out two rookies. Davis Love used all of his players the first day. His pairing of J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore was a bit strange, because of their relative inexperience in Ryder Cup pressure. Their nerves were very evident and neither made a single birdie until the match was out of reach. I would consider benching both for the Saturday matches. Sitting out Saturday and soaking in another day of Ryder Cup competition, I believe, will inspire a different attitude and desire for Sunday's single matches. Brandt Snedeker was fantastic with the putter, but Brooks Koepka was the dominant force in that pairing. He looked like he relished the pressure with fearless play and the killer instinct when given the opportunity. Koepka showed he is the type of competitor that you want as your partner and on your team.
But the afternoon belonged to the Europeans. They should've been dead in the water, but they came roaring back. They were the studs and even though they trail by two points, I think they feel they are in the driver's seat. Saturday's Foursome matches will be critical. The US can't afford to give up their advantage. If so, I see us behind going into the Sunday singles matches.