SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Some questions might never be answered: Was Brett Kavanaugh really at the 1982 Kemper Open as his calendars contend? Is Vladimir Putin jealous of Donald Trump’s budding friendship with Kim Jong Un? Will the U.S. Ryder Cup team ever figure out foursomes?
After jumping out to a 3-1 lead in the opening fourballs session Friday morning at Le Golf National, the Americans did what they always seem to do when it comes to the alternate-shot format — lose. Although this time they did so spectacularly, getting swept in the session for the first time in the event’s history to stake Europe to a 5-3 lead.
So bad was the drubbing that the huge crowds on the 17th and 18th holes had a nice view...of watching the grass grow. None of the four afternoon matches went beyond the 16th hole. Two of them were over by the 14th.
“We didn’t play our best golf,” U.S. captain Jim Furyk said of another foursomes fumble. “What happened, I think it happens a lot in golf, is the momentum. You start seeing those putts go in. You start seeing the birdies. You start seeing the blue numbers on the board. I think the guys press a little hard. I think they try a little bit too hard and I think they put a little bit too much pressure on themselves.”
Now the pressure is on the U.S. Again. The team that leads after the first day of the Ryder Cup goes on to win about 75 percent of the time. Did I mention the U.S. also hasn’t won a road game in 25 years?
This is part of the reason. And if this feels familiar it should.
Sure, the Americans crushed the Europeans in foursomes the last time the two sides met two years ago at Hazeltine, sweeping the opening foursomes session before picking up another 1 1/2 points in the format the following day, but historically the quirky alternate shot format has been about as kind to the U.S. as late night comedians have been to Trump.
Four years ago at Gleneagles, Europe pounded the Americans, going 6-0-2 against them in foursomes on their way to a blowout victory. In 2010, the U.S. was outscored again, 4 1/2 to 3 1/2. Those are hardly isolated examples, either. In the history of the event, which traces back to 1927, the U.S. trails 151-122 in points earned in the format. That might not seem like a lot until you consider the early years when the Americans often trounced the undermanned Great Britain & Ireland teams before continental Europe was added in 1979.
Speaking of numbers, here are a few more to digest:
On Friday, the U.S. played in a combined 12 over with just one birdie among its four teams. On the front nine, the Americans won a whopping two of 36 holes. In the 60 total holes played, Europe won 27, the U.S. 10.
Some of those make sense when you consider some of the players out there for the Americans. Phil Mickelson ranked 192nd in driving accuracy this season. At one point Friday, he laid up off the tee using an iron ... and promptly hit it in the water. He's also the losingest U.S. player in history with 21 career losses, which includes a foursomes record of, gulp, 5-8-4.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson? They’re winless in foursomes together.
For some reason, the U.S. does just fine in foursomes in the Presidents Cup. But they’re also playing inferior teams.
And here’s one more number, from everyone’s calendar: In the last seven foursomes sessions, the U.S. has been outscored 20 1/2 to 7 1/2.
Good luck trying to win like that.