SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, FRANCE | One whipsaw day into the Ryder Cup, a few observations worth considering:
Did Tommy Fleetwood single-handedly change the direction of this Ryder Cup?
It felt that way.
The European team was in danger of losing every four-ball match Friday morning until Fleetwood made long birdie putts at the 15th and 16th holes to spark a 3-and-1 win over Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed.
A couple of hours later, Europe owned the afternoon, administering a foursomes beating that looked and felt worse than 4-0. It was impossible for the Americans to put a happy face on what happened.
Tiger Woods didn’t play both sessions on Friday for the first time in his eight Ryder Cup appearances. He and Patrick Reed lost, 3 and 1, to Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari in a four-ball match and neither Woods nor Reed was sharp.
No one expected the 42-year-old Woods to play every session here but there was an expectation he would play twice on Friday. Woods never found his rhythm on Friday and with the match all square through 14, Woods put his tee shot on the par-4 15th into deep rough and was forced to layup. At the par-3 16th, he hit a weak miss to the right into the water. The U.S. lost both holes, allowing the Europeans to win their only point in the morning.
“My game is fine,” said Woods, who added his biggest struggle was hitting his cut consistently.
Woods’ difficulties on Fridays are not unusual. He now has a career record of 3-11-0 on the first day of Ryder Cup competition.
After the understandable chatter about what’s been wrong with Jordan Spieth’s game, there was nothing missing Friday morning when he made six birdies in the first nine holes (one was conceded) as he and Justin Thomas ran out to a big early lead over Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton.
“It was awesome,” Thomas said of the way Spieth putted.
So was the streak of five straight birdies Casey and Hatton made to pull even after being 3 down before Spieth and Thomas closed them out.
It would have been easy, perhaps even understandable, for Thomas Bjørn to keep Rory McIlroy out of the afternoon lineup after the way McIlroy hit the ball all over the property in his morning match.
Instead, McIlroy went back out with Ian Poulter and found at least a portion of his missing mojo in a victory over Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. That was a big payoff for Bjørn and the Europeans who need McIlroy in productive form if they’re going to win this Ryder Cup.
Jim Furyk’s decision to play Phil Mickelson in foursomes rather than four-balls was curious in that Mickelson ranks 192nd out of 193 players on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy this year.
Playing in the afternoon with Bryson DeChambeau, Mickelson was wild and did well to avoid the most lopsided foursomes loss in Ryder Cup history.
“We thought that this would be a good format for the tee shots, hitting a bunch of irons off the tees,” Mickelson said. “We just didn’t play our best. I don’t know what to say. They played phenomenal golf and I’m not trying to take it away from them. We just weren’t at our best either.”