CHASKA, Minn. — The scoreboards were all red Friday morning.
They turned blue in the afternoon.
And now, after a tale of two sessions, the 41st Ryder Cup is a struggle again.
In just over five hours, the battle in the Land of 10,000 Lakes shifted, which isn’t surprising as momentum swaps are a staple of this match-play tussle between the U.S. and Europe.
Led by Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson, the Americans stormed to a 4-0 lead with a sweep of Foursomes (alternate shot), the first whitewash by the U.S. in the first session since 1975, when the recently departed Arnold Palmer captained the team to victory at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Pennsylvania.
History was on the U.S. side — no team ahead by three or more points after the first session has ever lost. And the team had the boisterous, massive crowd on its side, a rolling thunder of uplifting noise. The road to the team’s first win since 2008 seemed to be without a roadblock.
But Europe raced back behind its driving forces of Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy and flipped the script by winning three of the four Fourballs matches after the clock struck noon, leaving the U.S. with a 5-3 advantage going into Day 2.
U.S. captain Davis Love III would have taken that advantage at the start of the day; European captain Darren Clarke loved to gain the momentum at the end of the day.
“That’s the Ryder Cup,” Clarke said. “That’s what all these people come to watch. You know, historically, Europe has probably been stronger in the foursomes and America have always been stronger in the fourballs and that was completely turned on its head. The guys were disappointed with the way they played this morning and the way they performed. But they showed tremendous bravery and heart and desire to go out and play the way they have done this afternoon.”
Love said he was “frustrated” the team’s advantage wasn’t larger.
“We played really well in the morning, and we actually played pretty good this afternoon. They just made a bunch of birdies,” Love said. “We just ran into a couple of buzz saws. Our guys still played really well and I’m proud of them for fighting all day. …
“I think everybody played a lot of good golf today. It was a long day, frustrating a little bit to not come out a little bit further ahead.”
Olympic gold medalist Rose and Claret Jug winner Stenson put the first point on the board for Europe with a 5-and-4 rout of Spieth and Reed. Rose and Stenson made nine birdies in 14 holes and avenged the morning loss to Spieth/Reed, who roared early and late in a 3-and-2 victory. The morning defeat was the first in the Ryder Cup for the team of Rose and Stenson, who were 3-0 in 2014; the afternoon loss was the first for the team of Spieth/Reed, who were 2-0-1 in 2014.
“It’s one thing if you’re losing if you’re playing badly, but we were both pretty happy with our performance in the morning,” Stenson said. “We missed a couple of putts and that’s why we lost. We’re just going to go out and try and carry on, and we did that and made a few putts and got the point back. Makes it sweeter when you beat the guys you lost to in the morning, that’s for sure.”
Europe got its second point when Garcia partnered with fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello for seven birdies in a 3-and-2 win over rookie Ryan Moore and J.B. Holmes, who didn’t win a hole until the 14th.
The heart of Europe, McIlroy, and rookie Thomas Pieters, both who were on the losing end of matches in the morning, teamed for a 3-and-2 win against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar in the anchor match in the afternoon. McIlroy ended the match with an eagle on the 16th, bowed twice to the crowd and emphatically shook hands and chest-pumped Pieters.
“This is my second Ryder Cup in the U.S., and the crowd is definitely a little more hostile than at Medinah (in 2012),” McIlroy said. “I just wanted to show them how much this means to us.”
The only bright spot for the U.S. in the afternoon was the pairing of Brandt Snedeker and rookie Brooks Koepka, who made seven birdies between them and never trailed in a 5-and-4 rout of Martin Kaymer and Masters champ and rookie Danny Willett. Snedeker provided the putter, Koepka the power.
“My job today was to come out and make putts, and just let Brooks do what he does,” Snedeker said. “Brooks played fantastic. It was an awesome win for us today. We needed it and we’re going to build on this thing going forward.”
It wasn’t bright at the start of the chilly morning as fog hung over the course for the first two hours of play, but nothing hindered the U.S. efforts as it made 19 birdies while Europe made just 8.
In addition to Reed and Spieth setting the tone in the first match, Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker won the last five holes to beat Garcia/Kaymer, 4 and 2, while Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler turned their match around and beat McIlroy and Andy Sullivan, 1 up. Dustin Johnson and Kuchar were a hammer in the anchor match as they whipped Lee Westwood and Pieters, 5 and 4.