McIlroy off to strong start in Sunday singles

Justin Thomas won the first hole of the Ryder Cup singles, but was two down through five to Rory McIlroy at Le Golf National.

Rory McIlroy heads to the first hole at Le Golf National   -  Getty Images

Rory McIlroy gave Europe a strong start in Sunday's opening Ryder Cup singles match, as Thomas Bjorn's men sought the four-and-a-half points it needed to regain the trophy at Le Golf National.

Europe held a commanding 10-6 advantage overnight, but two of the previous three teams to have led by that margin at the start of the final day went on to lose.

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United States skipper Jim Furyk knew a good start was essential if his side was to emulate the comebacks of Brookline and Medinah, in 1999 and 2012 respectively, but McIlroy had the advantage against Justin Thomas in match one as the initial exchanges elsewhere proved relatively even.

Sunday's play began amid a frenzied atmosphere, with the first hole surrounded by thousands upon thousands of expectant fans.

The USA struck first in the top two matches, Thomas and Brooks Koepka each winning the opening hole.

However, Thomas lost the next three holes to McIlroy, who had been much closer than the American on the first green, and Koepka was immediately pegged back as Paul Casey drained a lengthy birdie putt to spark a deafening roar on the second.

McIlroy's putter was red-hot after his miss on the first and he sunk a stunning par putt at the fifth to remain two ahead.

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The overall state of play was even initially, with McIlroy's two up lead matched by Webb Simpson against Justin Rose and Tony Finau against Tommy Fleetwood, while Jon Rahm struck first in his showdown with Tiger Woods.

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