ROME — A tie has to feel like kissing your sister to the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
The Americans squandered opportunities to win three of the four matches in Friday afternoon’s fourball session, failing to win a single match on the first day of the 44th Ryder Cup, the first time that’s happened in Cup history, and digging themselves a big deficit.
After sweeping the morning foursome 4-0, the Europeans made three clutch putts at 18 to turn potential losses into ties. First, Viktor Hovland drained a 26-foot birdie putt to tie the first match of the session. In the next group, Jon Rahm drilled a 33-foot eagle putt to salvage a tie. Finally, Justin Rose buried a 9-foot birdie putt that capped off a comeback from 2 down with two holes to go. In the end, Team Europe jumped out to a 6½-1½ lead.
“One thing that we talked about a lot is just it’s not over till it’s over, and the boys did that, those three matches,” Matt Fitzpatrick said. “They all got something out of it when they could have easily gone the other way, and it just makes a big difference.”
Fitzpatrick almost singlehandedly won a full point in the only match that didn’t end in a tie. Entering the Ryder Cup with a chip on his shoulder, the Englishman showed his mettle in the biennial competition. In two previous Cups, he was winless in five matches. Not anymore.
Fitzpatrick put on a putting exhibition during Friday’s afternoon fourball alongside teammate Rory McIlroy. Fitzpatrick had yet to play a fourball match in his previous two Cup appearances; he made the most of his chance.
“You build it up to be this amazing thing that you wanted to be part of thinking that you’ll get a real good go at it, and obviously I never did, really,” he said. “So that’s obviously always something that’s sort of disappointing.”
Fitzpatrick and McIlroy dominated the team of Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa, winning 5 and 3. It was a dream start for European Captain Luke Donald.
“Historic day, but we want it to be an historic week, so the job is certainly not done,” he said. “We will all celebrate an amazing day, but we’ll be back tomorrow morning with the goal of trying to win tomorrow morning’s session. We’ll be getting our guys focused to be back in the saddle, so to speak. But what a day.”