Ryder Cup 2023: Europe lead US 4-0 after opening foursomes session in Rome

Venue: Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, Rome Dates: 29 Sep – 1 Oct
Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Sounds, live text updates on BBC Sport website and daily highlights on BBC Two

Europe made a sensational start in their quest to regain the Ryder Cup with a clean sweep of Friday’s opening session to lead the United States 4-0.

The leaderboard was all blue from the moment Rory McIlroy holed a birdie putt on the fourth as Luke Donald’s men produced the fast start he had craved.

It is the first time Europe have won all four opening session matches.

“It’s the perfect start. They got leads early on which is paramount in match play,” said captain Luke Donald.

“But we know the US will be hungry to come back for more. We need to keep our foot firmly on the pedal.”

Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton won the top match and their 4&3 win was equalled by Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg.

Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka were 2&1 victors, while in the bottom match Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood also came through 2&1.

“With the way the boys led us out, we didn’t want to let the side down,” McIlroy told BBC Sport. “We played solidly, didn’t need to do anything spectacular.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you play in a Ryder Cup, there’s nothing like it in golf and we’ve got off to a good start.”

To illustrate Europe’s dominance, they did not trail in any match and won 22 holes to the American’s 10 as the defending champions suffered a demoralising morning.

It is the first time Europe has won an opening session since 2006, at the K Club in Ireland, and they went on to win all five sessions in that Ryder Cup – the only time that’s happened for either side – as they romped to an 18½-9½ victory.

It is the first time Europe have opted to play the alternate shot foursomes in the opening session since their previous home defeat, back in 1993. Captain Donald said earlier in the week that the stats pointed him in that direction.

And how right he was.

The atmosphere was electric 30 minutes before the first balls were struck as 5,000 fans packed into the stand surrounding the first tee, with thousands more lining the fairway on both sides all the way up to the first green.

There were predictable pantomime boos for American world number one Scottie Scheffler as he and his good friend Sam Burns emerged on to the first tee. Less savoury was the lone voice bellowing “you stink, Scottie” just as he was addressing his ball. An unwanted stain on an otherwise exemplary morning for Europe.

Hovland set the tone with a chip-in birdie on the first and his rookie playing partner Aberg, who only turned professional in June, birdied the next to put them two up against Open champion Brian Harman and Max Homa.

Up ahead, Rahm, who played imperious golf, birdied the third and fifth holes and then hit the pin with his tee shot on the short seventh to set up a birdie for Hatton as they went two up on Scheffler and Burns.

Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood embrace after winning their Ryder Cup foursomes match
Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood embrace on the 17th green after completing the foursomes clean sweep for Europe

Donald, who had stayed on the first tee, punched the air in delight as he watched on a big screen when that first Rahm birdie disappeared into the hole.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Austrian debutant Sepp Straka holed five birdies as they raced four up after nine against Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa.

In the bottom match, a Fleetwood pin-seeker on the fourth left McIlroy with a simple birdie chance to turn the leaderboard completely blue.

Patrick Cantlay then put his second shot from the middle of the fairway into a pond to gift the Europeans a two-hole lead.

Even when Europe were out of position, they found a way. Rahm chipped in to halve the 10th and that momentum saw them take the next two holes as they went four up with six to play and comfortably closed out the win.

Aberg, who is the first player to appear in a Ryder Cup without playing in a major, was showing no signs of nerves, as he holed a 15-footer to win the ninth and he knocked in another on the 14th as he and Hovland ran away with their match.

Fowler and Morikawa briefly threatened a comeback in the third match, winning two holes out of four from the 10th, but a Straka par putt on the 15th restored their three-hole lead with three to play and he holed the putt to halve the 17th to win a third point.

“It’s early days but I wanted to give Sepp his moment in the Ryder Cup to hole the winning putt,” said his playing partner Lowry.

And the sweep was completed when McIlroy and Fleetwood overcame a nervy ending to edge out Xander Shauffele and Cantlay.

American Cantlay birdied the 14th to bring them back within one hole, but the US team’s miserable morning was summed up on the next hole as he and Schauffele, who had won all five of their previous foursomes outings, failed to take advantage of a European error.

A wayward McIlroy drive opened the door for the Americans to level. However, Cantlay raced his birdie putt four feet past. Fleetwood then holed from 20 feet to scramble a par and Schauffele missed his putt to halve the hole.

Europe were in trouble at the next too after a wayward Fleetwood drive at the risk-and-reward driveable par-four 16th left his playing partner embedded in the bank of a pond. This time the US took the hole.

But Fleetwood atoned at the next, holing the three-foot match-winning birdie after McIlroy had hit a pin-seeker to equal the one that the Englishman had produced on hole four to set them on their way.

Europe need 14½ points to regain the Ryder Cup, with the US requiring 14 to retain it.

Graphic showing Friday foursomes score from the 2023 Ryder Cup, which ended Europe 4 United States 0Across the BBC bannerAcross the BBC footer


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