CHASKA, MINNESOTA — With the first day of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in the books, here are a few of the key takeaways from a back and forth Friday that ended with the U.S. leading 5-3:
- Rory McIlroy’s say goodnight bow after holing an eagle putt to close out his fourball win with Thomas Pieters was brilliant theater. Too much? Depends on which side you’re on. As McIlroy said, “It’s pretty hostile out there. When you make a putt, you want to show how much it means to you.”
- The importance of the Americans’ 4-0 sweep in the morning foursomes can’t be understated. It was critical that the U.S. get off to a good start and it was a perfect start. Two years ago, the U.S. went 1-7 in foursomes at Gleneagles.
- European captain Darren Clarke did not play Chris Wood or Matthew Fitzpatrick Friday, leaving the two rookies to watch and work on their games. With six rookies on his roster, Clarke faced a difficult challenge fitting them all in on the first day while also sending out his strongest pairings. It doesn’t make Saturday any easier for Wood and Fitzpatrick, though.
- As a reminder of how fickle match play can be, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed shot 4-under par best ball on their first nine holes in the afternoon – and were 2-down to Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, who made just one birdie playing foursomes in the morning. Rose and Stenson made nine birdies in 14 holes in their 5&4 win.
- For the most part, the fans treated Danny Willett nicely but there were a few who couldn’t let him skate on the caustic words his brother, Pete, posted earlier in the week. In a way, those fans reinforced what Willett’s brother wrote.
- Given the way their Ryder Cup began, the European side had to feel very encouraged trailing by just two points after the morning sweep. On the other hand, the Americans almost certainly would have taken a 2-point lead after the first day had it been offered. It’s just a matter of how the two sides arrived to where they are.
- Several players went hatless on Friday which, of course, never happens in regular events where they’re getting paid big bucks for the logos on their caps. It’s different at the Ryder Cup.
- Ten players played both matches Friday and none of them won twice.