Ryder Cup: 5 Key Takeaways From USA’s Day 1 Play

Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Day One at the Ryder Cup ended up being a historic one, as team USA pulled out a morning sweep against team Europe. The Europeans would answer back in the afternoon, but here are some key takeaways from team USA’s play on Friday.

Day one of the Ryder Cup is in the books, and as usual, it didn’t disappoint. As the many names were getting introduced by the first tee announcer, the cheers echoed throughout the Hazeltine golf course.

Both the American and European roster features some interesting players and it was fun seeing the foursome and fourball pairings duking it out. In the morning, the scoreboard was a sea of red, as team USA dominated the morning matches.

In fact, it was a sweep, although the wins didn’t come easy for at least two of the matches. There was a great comeback by the pairing of Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker against Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer.

After a slow start by Johnson and Walker, they caught fire at the right time and made the comeback. The key match that swung the session was the duel between Phil Mickelson/Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy/Andy Sullivan, where the European duo was up by two before the Americans hit some clutch putts to take the last few holes and win the match.

The sweep was then completed. It was only the fifth foursomes sweep in Ryder Cup history and the first time since 1981. Ironically, all of the other sweeps were also by the U.S. team.

Another piece of irony, was the fact that Arnold Palmer’s 1975 Ryder Cup bag was on the first tee in honor of the golf legend who just passed away. In that Ryder Cup, there was also a morning sweep. It was a chilling coincidence.

Despite the hot start by the Americans, it was all Europe in the afternoon fourball matches. The European squad won three of the four matches. However, Ryder Cup rookie Brooks Koepka and partner Brandt Snedeker played tremendous golf and thumped the talented duo of Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett.

With the flaming hot morning start for team USA and an amazing turnaround by team Europe in the afternoon, it looks to be a tightly contested tournament. So, we take a look at some of the things that stood out from the first day of play for the Americans.

Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

US Playing Better Than They Have In Recent Cups

OK, so this one sounds profusely simple and obvious. Sure, team USA may have gotten a little bit of a whooping in the afternoon matches, but the morning dominance may be a great sign of things to come for the weekend.

The popular tag team of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed once again played well, as they defeated Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose 3&2 to help start the sweep. We saw pure dominance from the Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson pairing and that could build some momentum going forward too.

The U.S. squad hit clutch shots. This is huge if you want to win any tournament, especially in the Ryder Cup. Almost all four matches were closed out during the final holes and they delivered by shutting the door.

Getting to the greens often and hitting the key putts are likely going to make all the difference for team USA. Another thing to take note of is that although the European team owned the Americans in the afternoon, there was some great golf played by the Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka pairing which is definitely promising for the coming days.

Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

DJ/Kuchar Forming Formidable Duo

Arguably the most dominant performance of the day came from the play of Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, who won their foursomes match with an impressive 5&4 finish. Johnson is coming off of the best season of his career, capturing the PGA Player of the Year award for his efforts.

Kuchar came out of the Olympics with a bronze medal and also played very well at the 2014 Ryder Cup. However, Lee Westwood hasn’t played too much great golf lately and Thomas Pieters, who did play well, certainly couldn’t match that pair on his own.

Naturally, this makes you wonder, how good are Johnson and Kuchar and can they keep it going into the weekend? Their fourballs start could have been more of a match-up advantage rather than just great play by Johnson and Kuchar.

They did put on a show, and they deserve a lot of credit, but it will be increasingly interesting to see how these two play once the heat starts to turn up.

They did receive a rude awakening against the pairing of Thomas Pieters and Rory McIlroy as the Europeans took care of business against the the American duo in the afternoon. McIlroy was playing like the player who won the FedEx Cup just a week ago and Pieters filled up the meter and made for a tough match for the Americans.

As mentioned, Kuchar was one of the bright spots for team USA in 2014. He’s also one of golf’s streakiest players and could be a guy to keep an eye on going into the weekend.

Johnson is the Player of the Year for a reason. He may be the best player that team USA has right now, and if he can utilize his power off the tee like he’s known for, it can leave him with some easy looks at those pesky Hazeltine greens.

Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Davis Love III Proves He’s A Capable Captain

I understand that the overall score ended up being tighter than expected by the end of Friday, but you can’t help but be really impressed with how they played in the morning foursome matches and how the Snedeker/Koepka squad did in the afternoon.

Love III made the right pairings and it ultimately led to early dominance. Despite Europe’s comeback, the American captain still made you feel good about this team going into the weekend.

Team USA has the lead after day one, and that’s huge. Since the Ryder Cup is only a three day event, it’s always great for a team to get off to a hot start.

It’s not like most tournaments where, what you do on Thursday doesn’t always matter. In the Ryder Cup, getting the hot clubs on Friday is what can propel a team to victory.

And Love III certainly planned well for day one, utilizing the right pairings as a strategy to tackle Hazeltine. He captained a good team in 2012 as well, but an unfortunate meltdown caused team USA to lose, but they were extremely close.

This time, the captain seemed more mentally prepared for his second time as the leader. As long as the players continue to be passionate about playing for him, it will do wonders for the team.

Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Spieth And Patrick Reed Remain Dangerous

Not only was the Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed pairing the first group to complete their win in the morning sweep, but they also played well during the afternoon matches. Sure, it was a 5&4 defeat, and Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson got their revenge, but the young American duo still showed glimpses of how good they are at the Ryder Cup.

Patrick Reed alone, hadn’t lost a match until Friday’s afternoon session. Reed won all of his matches at the 2014 Ryder Cup and won the first match on Friday this time around.

The five-time PGA Tour champion keeps showing signs that he may be a force to be reckoned with in Ryder Cups to come. Spieth, on the other hand is still one of the best players on the planet and one of the best putters we have seen in a long time.

Pressure doesn’t phase Spieth, and it showed when he nearly recorded an ace during the afternoon matches. Both of these golfers will be crucial when it’s time for Singles matches because you need Spieth to nail putts and Reed to catch fire.

Combine this with more great play from Johnson, Kuchar, Snedeker and Koepka, and it’s a recipe for success.

Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Brooks Koepka And Brandt Snedeker Caught Fire At The Right Time

The Europeans came out like raging bulls during the afternoon rounds and played some great golf to get their revenge. However, the pairing of Brooks Koepka and Brandt Snedeker took care of business in amazing fashion.

The pair defeated a dangerous group in Danny Willett and Martin Kaymer. Koepka, a Ryder Cup rookie definitely didn’t let the intensity get to him as he was cool as ice.

Having a veteran who has had a very solid career to date, in Snedeker, leading the charge, certainly helped too. Having these two players definitely shows what seems to be some rich depth that the American team has.

They picked a great time to play well also. Doing so in the afternoon will be a major boost for Snedeker and Koepka going into the Saturday matches.

Their minds will still be mentally fresh from the way they played on Friday afternoon, and they will be hungry for more. Especially Koepka, who is a young player, itching to take advantage of any opportunity he can, just like Spieth and Reed did in 2014.

Just include Snedeker and Koepka as two more guys to watch for this weekend. I also briefly want to acknowledge the play of Ryan Moore, the final man picked by Davis Love III.

Moore, one of the game’s deadeye accurate drivers, hit two big birdie putts on the back nine, showing his capable clutch abilities. Although Rafa Cabrera Bello and Sergio Garcia defeated Moore and J.B. Holmes, those two putts gave the European team a scare.

It should be a fun weekend of Ryder Cup golf, and we could be in for another dandy in one of sports’ grandest events.

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