SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- The United States' Ryder Cup team was blown out by Europe three years ago in Paris. The Americans have had an extra year to think about it, with the event pushed back a year because of COVID-19. On Friday, on the first day of competition at Whistling Straits, the U.S. took a big first step toward erasing that bad memory.
Here's how it all happened on Day 1:
SCORE: UNITED STATES 6, EUROPE 2
Afternoon session: Four-ball
Dustin Johnson/Xander Schauffele def. Paul Casey/Bernd Wiesberger 2 and 1
How it happened: Johnson, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, hasn't exactly played like it since winning a green jacket at the Masters in November, his second major championship victory. But he came to Whistling Straits ready to play, after a forgettable performance in Paris three years ago. Schauffele birdied two of the first three holes, then DJ added another one on the par-five fifth to take a 3-up lead. The Europeans clawed their way back to 1 down at the turn, before Johnson had three straight birdies on Nos. 10-12. On the par-4 11th, he walked in a 16-footer, which drew a fist pump from Michael Jordan, who was sitting beside the green.
Tony Finau/Harris English def. Rory McIlroy/Shane Lowry 4 and 3
How it happened: Finau, who went 2-1 in his Ryder Cup debut in Paris, picked up where he left off with English. Finau drained a 39-foot birdie on the first hole, which set the tone for the rest of the match. After sitting out the morning session, Finau had six birdies and English added another one on the par-4 eighth hole. Still, Lowry and McIlroy were somehow able to hang around, and the match was tied after seven holes. But then the Americans won three consecutive holes, and Finau's birdie on the par-4 13th stretched their advantage to 4 up, which proved to be insurmountable.
Tony. Finau.— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 24, 2021
Have yourself a day. pic.twitter.com/SSUYfB126t
How it happened: In what was the most competitive match of the afternoon session, neither side took more than a one-hole advantage. It was the first match to go 18 holes. DeChambeau's length off the tee was impressive; he had a 330-yard drive that led to a birdie on No. 1, then he had a 417-yard drive that led to an eagle on the par-5 fifth. He had two more birdies after that, but it was his 5-foot par save on the 15th hole that put the Americans ahead 1 up after Rahm had missed a 5-footer for par. On the next hole, Rahm had an impressive up and down out of a greenside bunker for birdie, but Scheffler calmly sank a 6-footer to maintain the slim lead. The Americans held off the Europeans on the 17th hole, but Hatton made a 7-foot birdie on 18 to snag a half-point for the Europeans.
How it happened: Early on, it looked like the European duo would run away with the match. They grabbed a 3-up lead on Fleetwood's birdie on the par-4 eighth hole. But the Americans cut the lead to 1 up after Thomas' birdie on the par-4 ninth and Cantlay's birdie on the par-3 12th. Then, on the par-5 16th, Thomas reached the green in two with a 282-yard shot with a 3-wood into a 25-mph wind. He drained a 17-foot eagle putt to tie the match with two holes to go. The teams traded pars on No. 17, leaving the match tied heading into the final hole. Hovland and Thomas missed birdie chances on the 18th, leaving the match tied.
Morning session: Foursomes
Jon Rahm/Sergio Garcia def. Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth 3 and 1
How it happened: The Spanish duo had four birdies on the front nine -- all off Rahm's putter, including a 58-footer on the par-4 fourth hole. Another birdie on No. 10 gave the Europeans a 3-up lead. After the Americans cut their deficit to two on the 13th, the Spaniards answered on the 15th, with Garcia draining a 24-footer to take a 3-up lead with three holes to play. Garcia pumped his fist and blew a kiss to American fans who were booing him. The U.S. got one back on the par-5 16th to keep the match alive, but then Thomas' tee shot on the par-3 17th bounced left off a bank and deep into the native grass, essentially ending it. With the victory, Garcia tied Nick Faldo with 23 matches won overall, the most in Ryder Cup history, and extended his career points record to 26.5. He also tied Bernhard Langer with his 11th foursome win, most in the event's history.
Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa def. Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland 3 and 2
How it happened: The tandem of Johnson, America's oldest player at 37, and Morikawa, a rookie, were too much for Casey, a European veteran, and Hovland, another rookie. DJ's form hadn't been great since his Masters victory in November, but the combination of his length and Morikawa's precision on iron shots proved to be a winning recipe. The match was tied after six holes, and the Americans took a 1-up lead after the Europeans bogeyed the par-3 7th. The Americans extended the lead to 3 up with three straight birdies on Nos. 10-12. Johnson, who had a 1-4 record in the U.S. team's ugly loss in Paris in 2018, looked to be much more engaged and confident on Friday morning.
Brooks Koepka/Daniel Berger def. Lee Westwood/Matt Fitzpatrick 2 and 1
How it happened: Berger and Koepka, former Florida State teammates and close friends, put the bow on America's 3-1 advantage in the morning foursomes by taking down the English duo. Berger and Koepka took a 2-up lead with birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, but a bogey on the ninth put things back to even at the turn. Then the Americans opened the back nine with consecutive birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 to go 2 up and were able to maintain that advantage the rest of the way. Koepka, who injured his left wrist when his club hit a tree root at the Tour Championship, looked to be just fine. There's also little question about his desire to play in the Ryder Cup after the opening victory. Berger, one of the best iron players in the world, seemed to be a perfect partner for his former Seminoles teammate.
Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele def. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter 5 and 3
How it happened: The American rookies jumped on the European veterans immediately, taking a 5-up lead after only five holes in the most lopsided match of the morning. The Europeans, who had won 25 Ryder Cup matches combined, didn't win a hole until No. 10. McIlroy was out of sorts and struggled mightily with his iron play. Poulter, a thorn in America's side in the past, couldn't find that magic until the back nine, when the Europeans briefly put pressure on the U.S. team by winning consecutive holes. But then the Americans had four straight birdies on Nos. 12-15 to put them away. Cantlay, the FedEx Cup champion, and Schauffele, the Olympic gold medalist, looked like the best American team in the first matches.