GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — A capsule look at Friday’s matches at the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone:
One fan shouted out, “Smack his lights out, Jon.” That proved to be particularly true. Rahm holed a 30-foot birdie putt from off the green, he hit the pin with his tee shots on the par-3 seventh, and he chipped in from 70 feet to halve the 10th right when the Americans thought they could get back in it. Rahm drove the 11th green to set birdie, Sam Burns hit into the bunker on the par-5 12th as Europe made another birdie, and then it was just a matter of time.
Hovland set the tone early when he chipped from the fringe, over a ridge and into the cup some 45 feet away for birdie. He nearly chipped in again on No. 3 to halve the hole. Homa and Harman lost the opening two holes and won the next two holes. But that was as good as it got for them. The Americans made only one birdie the rest of the way, that one on the reachable par-4 11th hole. It was a solid start for Aberg, the 23-year-old Swede who was still in college at Texas Tech just four months ago.
Lowry and Straka took turns hitting it into 6 feet and making putts on the third and fourth hole to build an early lead. They really took off at the end of the front nine. Fowler and Morikawa missed the green the par-3 seventh, missed the fairway and hit into the water on the eighth and three-putted from long range at the par-5 ninth, losing all three holes to Europe. They were 4 down at the turn, won two holes to keep in the game, only to miss another fairway and lose the 14th. This match was as much lost as it was won.
This was the headliner match of the morning and it turned out to be the one that probably should have gone the distance. The “Fleetwood Mac” pairing of Fleetwood and McIlroy were 1 up at the turn and never trailed. But everything turned on the 15th hole. McIlroy drove into the rough forcing a layup, and he hit wedge to 20 feet. Cantlay had a 25-foot birdie attempt. The match looked certain to be all square. But then Fleetwood holed his par putt, the Americans three-putted for bogey, and Europe went 2 up. The Americans won the reachable 16th with Schauffele holing a 10-foot putt. But on the par-3 17th, McIlroy hit his tee shot to 2 feet and Fleetwood closed it out. It was the first time in six foursomes matches that Schauffele and Cantlay failed to win.
Spieth chipped in at the par-3 fourth to square the match, but the big moment was Thomas making birdie at the sixth. It was the first time all day the U.S. had a lead in any match. It didn’t last long — Hovland birdied the next hole. A birdie on the 12th gave the Americans a 1-up lead, Spieth made birdie on the 13th for a 2-up lead, and then Thomas essentially played the last five holes by himself as Spieth was out of the holes. He made a clutch par putt on the 15th, missed from about the same range on the next hole that squared the match. Thomas delivered another big moment with a chip to 6 feet. Hovland then knocked in a 25-foot birdie putt, and Thomas made his to at least get a halve.
Europe built another early lead, 2 up through eight holes, until Scheffler birdied the ninth and Europe bogeyed the 10th to bring it back to all square. They halved the next four holes and then the match turned up the excitement. Koepka birdied the 15th for a 1-up lead. Rahm chipped in from the rough across the green for eagle on the 16th. Scheffler made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th for another 1-up lead. But on the final hole, with Koepka in range for a birdie chance, Rahm made a 35-foot eagle for the halve.
Clark won holes with birdie three times on the front nine, the last one giving the Americans a 2-up lead going to the back nine. Clark made another long putt for birdie on the 13th to restore the 2-up margin. This looked to be a U.S. point, especially when Clark drove the 16th green and two-putted for birdie, while MacIntyre three-putted for par. But the Americans gave away the 17th with a bogey. And on the final hole, Homa missed a 12-foot birdie and Rose made his birdie from 8 feet for the halve.
Fitzpatrick had played two Ryder Cups and only was sent out in foursomes, losing both times. He was 0-4 in the Ryder Cup. And then he was sent out in fourballs with McIlroy, and Fitzpatrick took him for a ride. He was 6-under par for the first six holes, winning five straight holes. Europe was 6 up through seven holes and it was just a matter of time. The Americans extended the match by winning two straight holes. But Schauffele missed a short birdie putt, and McIlroy closed out the match with a birdie on the 15th.
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