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Ryder Cup: What next for Team USA after nightmare start? Europe enjoy historic start in Rome

Europe equalled their largest opening-day lead in Ryder Cup history after winning both sessions in unbeaten day at Marco Simone GC; Luke Donald's side need eight more points over final two days to regain trophy; Watch day two live on Saturday from 6am ahead of first tee shot at 6.35am

Ryder Cup, Zach Johnson, Scottie Scheffler

As Team Europe romped into a 6.5-1.5 lead over the USA on a remarkable opening day of the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, we take a look at the biggest talking points from Friday's action...

Europe make history with strong start

Historically, the team which leads after the first session in the Ryder Cup goes on to win the trophy 60 per cent of the time, so it was imperative Europe got off to a flying start in the foursomes.

They did that in emphatic style, completing a clean sweep in the morning session, with a devastating showing where the hosts were not behind at any point.

It is the first time Europe have led 4-0 after the opening session and the first time the Americans had trailed heading into the afternoon on day one since 2006, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley leading the praises.

"It's huge - I didn't see it coming," McGinley, who oversaw Europe's 2014 victory, said. "I knew Europe were primed, I knew they had a lot of form in their team, and I knew America were a little bit under-prepared.

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Jon Rahm was on brilliant form for Team Europe as he partnered Tyrrell Hatton to beat Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns 4&3 during the Friday foursomes at the Ryder Cup in Rome.

"I thought we were going to come out of the blocks fast, I didn't think it was going to be this fast. What a sensational morning for Europe. It was brilliant golf - it wasn't a fluke in any way."

Donald's foursomes gambit pays off

The start vindicated Team Europe captain Luke Donald's decision to play the foursomes first and underlined his belief that is the format his players are stronger in.

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That decision was taken after some detailed analysis which showed the team's strength lies there rather than in the fourballs, with Donald adopting specific practice routines to build on that.

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Luke Donald praised his team's performance on the first day of the Ryder Cup as they notched five match victories across foursomes and fourballs.

"I'm happy with the way the guys came out the gate," Donald said. "They got leads early on, which is paramount in match play, so it was an amazing start."

Rory McIlroy, who partnered Tommy Fleetwood to a 2&1 victory over the previously unbeaten pairing of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, was in no doubt that was proven by Europe's morning showing in Rome.

"We switched the format this year to go foursomes first because statistically that's our better session and, all week, all we've been talking about is getting off to fast starts," McIlroy said.

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Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood reflect on their 2&1 win over Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay at the Ryder Cup in Rome which gave Team Europe a Friday foursomes whitewash over Team USA.

"Playing three-hole matches in practice, three holes, go again, three holes, go again, something that Luke's drilled into us. We were ready to go from the first tee shot as obviously as you can see in how everyone played."

Lack of match practice costly for USA?

There had been a lot of talk about whether the limited competitive action for America's players in the build-up to the Ryder Cup would affect them.

Judging by their dismal performances in all of the morning foursomes, that argument would seem to have merit.

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Viktor Hovland produced some stunning shots on the way to partnering Ludvig Aberg to a 4&3 victory over Max Homa and Brian Harman.

Two of the matches were finished with three holes to play while the other two were concluded on the 17th and two-time Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew saw that lack of action as a contributory factor.

"The Americans just looked rusty," Mathew said. "They were hitting a bad shot at the wrong time, not putting particularly well, and I think that lack of playing has really hurt them this morning."

That was a view which was shared by McGinley, although he felt a lot of the lopsided scoreline was down to how well Europe played as much as anything.

"That concentration level of not being competitive for four or five weeks is relevant," McGinley said. "They're the small mistakes you make when you're not on the edge competitively. I saw a little bit of that from the American team this morning, along with some brilliant golf from the Europeans."

Though the US team were more competitive in the afternoon fourballs, Sky Sports' Andrew Coltart didn't hold back in his criticism of the Americans' preparation.

"Who on earth in their right mind thinks the best way to prepare for a Ryder Cup is to take five weeks off?" he said. "Nine of the 12 American players took five weeks off. That's disgraceful!"

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Andrew Coltart questions Team USA's preparation ahead of the Ryder Cup, as David Howell says they have been humbled following a dominant European display on Friday.

US fail to capitalise in afternoon session

While Europe's dominance on the opening day can't be understated, there was a fear that their four-point advantage from the foursomes was to be reduced to two heading into Saturday.

"It was looking like 3-1 to the US," Donald admitted, before adding: "To win this session was huge!

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Justin Thomas holed a pressure par putt on the 15th hole at the Ryder Cup in Rome to stay one up with three to play in the fourballs session but then missed a short putt on the 16th to lose the hole.

"We showed so much grit and determination to turn it around. It was tough this afternoon, really hard going, with three matches coming down to 18, but the 18th was kind to us!"

Wasn't it just. Europe trailed in each of the opening three matches in the afternoon fourballs going down the stretch, with both Viktor Hovland and Tyrell Hatton's pairing, and Justin Rose and Robert McIntyre, two down through 13 holes.

Not only that, but Rose and McIntyre trailed still by one heading up 18, as did Jon Rahm and Nicolai Hojgaard in their matchup against the formidable pairing of world No 1 Scottie Scheffler and five-time major winner Brooks Koepka.

Hovland got things rolling first for Europe, sinking a clutch putt over the ridge on the 18th green for birdie and to complete his and Hatton's comeback against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth - the first of three halved matches.

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Jon Rahm produced two stunning shots to eagle the par-5 18th hole at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club and claim a thrilling half in the match against Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler in the Ryder Cup.

Then Rahm, for the second time in three holes, thrilled the fervent European crowd with an eagle! After chipping in on the par-four 16th, he found the green in two at the par-five 18th and holed an even longer putt than Hovland's.

Rose then completed the streak with a clutch putt for birdie to round off a remarkable European run and see them win the session 2.5-1.5 and enter day two five points ahead.

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Justin Rose holes a pressure putt on the 18th hole to deny Team USA a win, securing a brilliant day for the Europeans.

Records tumble for Team Europe!

And those five points that Europe lead by heading into Saturday ties the largest one-day lead in Ryder Cup history, matching the efforts of the 1975 US team and Europe in 2004 - those teams going on to secure 10 and nine-point wins respectively.

Not only that, there's Europe's first ever 4-0 Friday morning clean sweep to consider, as well as the opening day in Rome being the first instance ever in which the US have failed to win one single match outright.

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A look at the best of Matt Fitzpatrick in the Friday fourballs, including three consecutive birdies and a brilliant eagle on route to a dominant win with partner Rory McIlroy.

Not that Donald is taking his counterparts lightly.

"We'll never do that [underestimate the US]," the Team Europe captain said. "They're too strong. We saw that two years ago [at Whistling Straits].

"Each day it's about trying to win the next session."

And, true to his words, the captain has chosen precisely the same eight players who swept the Friday morning foursomes to try and win the next session on Saturday. Will it be another historic day for his side or will the great American fightback take hold?

Watch day two of the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club live on Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 6am, starting with the second round of foursomes. Also stream on NOW.

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