Ryder Cup showdown underway at Hazeltine
Olympic champion Justin Rose teed off for Europe in a boisterous and tension-filled atmosphere Friday to start the 41st Ryder Cup with an opening alternate shot foursomes match at Hazeltine.
Passions were overflowing in the first tee stands, jammed to a 1,500-seat capacity with screaming spectators, as Europe began the hunt for an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory over the United States.
Rose fired his shot into the morning fog and mist and it landed on the fairway.
Fans united briefly before the start in chanting Arnold Palmer’s name, a tribute to the golf icon who died last Sunday at age 87.
But after that it was chants of “U-S-A” as Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed walked out for the opening match against England’s Rose and British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden.
Reed answered Rose with his own tee shot into the heart of the first fairway and the biennial team golf showdown was under way.
“It gets bigger every two years,” US captain Davis Love said. “The energy was just unreal. There’s more pressure on these guys, and more fun. We just have to get this crowd going on our side.”
The Rose-Stenson and Spieth-Reed pairings went unbeaten in 2014 at Gleneagles and each was slotted into the opening spot for their teams.
The European duo walked onto the tee together, living the shoulder to shoulder mantra of Europe captain Darren Clarke, whose side has won six of the past seven Cup showdowns and eight of the past 10.
“Electrifying. Amazing. Great intensity,” said England’s Ian Poulter, a Europe assistant captain. “Everyone is pretty pumped. We’re ready for it.”
Singing blue and gold-clad Europe backers were outnumbered in their “Ole” cheer by flag-waving US fans wearing red, white and blue doing the “U-S-A” chant.
Other alternate shot matches in the first session including third-ranked Rory McIlroy, coming off a victory in the US PGA’s season-ending Tour Championship, and English Ryder Cup rookie Andy Sullivan against Americans Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.
American Jimmy Walker, who won the PGA Championship in July, will join two-time major winner Zach Johnson against Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Germany’s Martin Kaymer.
US Open champion Dustin Johnson, the world number two, and fellow American Matt Kuchar, the bronze medalist at the Rio Olympics, will face Belgian Thomas Pieters and England’s Lee Westwood.
Four afternoon four-ball matches will follow with Saturday featuring four more foursomes and four-ball matches ahead of Sunday’s concluding 12 singles matches.
Europe needs 14 points to retain the trophy while the Americans need 14 1/2 points to take the Cup for the first time since 2008 at Valhalla.
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