Europe primed for historic week

Agence France-Presse
Europe primed for historic week
Rory McIlroy

ROME– Europe got off to another fast start on the second day of the Ryder Cup on Saturday, piling the pressure on the United States in the morning foursomes after racking up a record-equalling overnight lead.

Captain Luke Donald said on Friday he wants a “historic week” from Europe, and his team looked poised to extend their 6.5-1.5 advantage earned on an extraordinary first day at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.

Europe are gunning to reclaim the Ryder Cup lost in a record 19-9 thrashing two years ago at the hands of the USA, who are trying to win on this side of the Atlantic for the first time since 1993.

European captain Donald has opted to switch the usual schedule and open with the alternate shot foursomes instead of fourballs and his team have delivered in style.

The Americans didn’t win a single match in a day for the first time and the board was dominated by blue early on Saturday with the first pairing of Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood leading Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas through six holes.

A large and loud crowd have delighted in the performance of the European team, and the players have responded to that passion by putting on a golf clinic that will leave the USA’s chances hanging by a thread if they don’t turn the tide by lunchtime.

As glorious sunshine slowly enveloped the course, fans unfurled a large banner depicting Spanish Ryder Cup icon Seve Ballesteros, bringing vice-captain Jose Maria Olazabal to the verge of tears at the Italian message “forever in our hearts”.

Zach Johnson’s USA didn’t hit the first fairway until Patrick Cantlay teed off in the final match of the morning and a series of poor shots and missed putts left them down in three of the four contests.

Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg moved an incredible five up after six holes on Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka, the only player in the field from the Saudi Arabia-backed rebel LIV Golf circuit.

On Friday the US briefly threatened a fightback in afternoon fourballs, with even a 5-3 deficit looking likely, but they could not close it out.

Thomas and Spieth played out a thrilling tie with Hatton and Hovland in Friday’s fourballs, who holed his 20-foot birdie putt on the final green.

McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick dismantled Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa 5 and 3 in the fourth fourballs match to briefly put Europe 5.5-0.5 ahead.

The USA were still in control of the other two matches, but Jon Rahm chipped in for eagle on the short par-four 16th before draining a 30-foot eagle putt on the 18th to steal half a point with Nicolai Hojgaard against Scheffler and Koepka.

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