Team Europe in cruise control after opening day

Team Europe hold a record-equalling five-point lead over the U.S. Team after going unbeaten on the opening day of the Ryder Cup in Rome.

The hosts produced a clean sweep of Friday’s morning foursomes to hold a 4-0 advantage as Captain Luke Donald’s plan to open with foursomes paid off at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.

They then faced a spirited fightback in the afternoon fourballs but Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose all crucially holed putts on the 18th green to pick up half points and further deflate the holders.

Matt Fitzpatrick earlier secured his first point as he teamed up with Rory McIlroy to claim an impressive 5&3 win in the anchor match of the afternoon session.

Zach Johnson’s U.S. Team looked likely to cut into Europe’s advantage after the foursomes when they led in all but one of the fourballs, before late heroics from Donald’s men ensured they won the afternoon session 2 ½ – 1 ½.

The 6 ½ – 1 ½ lead after the opening day equals the biggest in the history of the biennial transatlantic match play contest and was last achieved at Oakland Hills in 2004.

This is also the first time the U.S. have not won a single match in a day at the Ryder Cup.

“Historic day, but we want it to be a historic week, so the job is certainly not done,” said Donald.

“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.”

Jon Rahm was perhaps the star of the show for Europe, delivering 1 ½ points – a haul matched by Hovland, Hatton and McIlroy – from his two matches on the day.

After leading from the front by delivering a win alongside Hatton in the morning, the Spaniard chipped in for an eagle on the 16th and then holed a 33-foot eagle putt on the 18th to secure a gutsy share of the spoils alongside rookie Nicolai Højgaard.

With Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka both readying themselves ahead of birdie putts from close range on the par-five 18th, Rahm holed from 33 feet for eagle to bring about roars of support from the partisan home crowds.

Fitzpatrick, the 2022 U.S. Open Champion, earlier made four birdies and an eagle in the first six holes to put his pairing firmly on the way to a stress-free victory.

When the U.S. won the 16th to go two up on rookie Robert MacIntyre and Justin Rose, the U.S. seemed set to claim their first point but England’s Rose won the 17th with a par and then birdied the 18th to cap a memorable opening day for Europe.

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