Rahm sparks European romp on opening day of Ryder Cup

Spain’s Jon Rahm and partner Tyrrell Hatton lit the blue touchpaper with a 4&3 victory over world number one Scottie Scheffler and rookie Sam Burns.

Published : Sep 29, 2023 17:10 IST , ROME - 3 MINS READ

FILE PHOTO: Spain’s Jon Rahm in action.
FILE PHOTO: Spain’s Jon Rahm in action. | Photo Credit: AP

FILE PHOTO: Spain’s Jon Rahm in action. | Photo Credit: AP

An inspired Europe made a lightning-fast start to the Ryder Cup as it romped into an early lead against a stunned American side on the opening morning foursomes on Friday.

Huge crowds swarmed to the Marco Simone course for the early-morning start, and the majority supporting Luke Donald’s Europe were richly rewarded with some spellbinding golf.

Spain’s Jon Rahm and partner Tyrrell Hatton lit the blue touchpaper with a 4&3 victory over world number one Scottie Scheffler and rookie Sam Burns.

Not long after they put the first point on the board on the 15th hole, Scandinavian duo Viktor Hovland and debutant Ludvig Aberg followed suit with a 4&3 defeat of British Open winner Brian Harman and Max Homa.

The U.S. -- bidding to retain the trophy but which has not won in Europe for 30 years -- appeared powerless to resist.

Around 45,000 fans are expected for each of the three days and many of them waited patiently on the scenic par-four 16th -- one of many spectacular holes on a course just east of Rome.

After the first two matches ended on the 15th, they finally got to see some action as Americans Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa offered some resistance against Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Austrian Sepp Straka.

But Lowry and Straka made it 3-0 to Europe as they ended the contest on the 17th for a 2&1 victory.

With Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood -- nicknamed Fleetwood Mac -- leading Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, Europe was on course for a 4-0 session whitewash, as it did in the Friday foursomes on the way to victory in Paris in 2018.

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Donald had called for a fast start and his decision to start with the foursomes, rather than the usual fourballs, proved to be a masterstroke as his players fed off the energy of the massed crowds basking in the warm sunshine.

Massive crowds flocked to first tee for the 0535GMT start, shattering the peace of the Roman countryside with chants and Viking-style thunder clapping from the 5,000 fans wedged into the grandstand.

Scheffler’s opening drive slid into the rough and although the opening two holes were shared, an inspired Rahm holed a putt from off the green at the third to kickstart Europe for what was to become a romping win.

Rahm converted a short birdie putt on the fifth after Hatton’s neat chip to put Europe two up and although debutant Burns made a putt to win the sixth it was a reprieve.

A fired-up Rahm almost aced the scenic par-three seventh with Hatton not even required to putt.

Scheffler and Burns hung on grimly with a succession of hole-saving putts around the turn and looked likely to win the 10th only for Rahm to chip in to secure a half.

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It was a body blow the Americans could not recover from and Europe won the 11th and 12th holes and celebrated victory on the 15th to put the first point on the board.

“There really isn’t a much better feeling. In foursomes, the key is not to give away holes and we did that,” Rahm said.

Norway’s Hovland had earned the day’s first deafening roar, chipping in on the first as he and Aberg moved two up after two holes, only for Homa and Harman to hit back to level.

Rookie Aberg, the first player to play in the Ryder Cup having not contested a major, took a while to join the party, but when he did the Viking pairing was unstoppable.

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