Ryder Cup 2023 updates: Europe stuns U.S. with late rallies, takes commanding 6½-1½ Day 1 lead
The anticipation for Day 1 of the 2023 Ryder Cup has been building since … well, since a jubilant American team walked out—sipping champagne and smoking cigars—of their post-event press conference at Whistling Straits nearly two years ago. A 19-9 runaway victory over the Europeans, the biggest winning margin in 40 years, was a statement performance. And yet, it came with a caveat. The U.S. team had won once again at home, but there was still the matter of ending a road winless drought that dated to 1993.
“We needed to win this one and I think it was a massive stepping stone for this team,” said Jordan Spieth that Sunday afternoon in Wisconsin. “The group that we have here that have really known each other since almost back to grade school, [and we need to] continue to try to work hard to be on these teams that go over there. [But] it's one thing to win it over here, and it is a lot easier to do so and it is harder to win over there. If we play like we did this week, the score will look the same over there in a couple years. And that’s what we’re here for.”
Of course, the 12 men playing this week for Europe—and 50,000 raucous fans cheering them on at Marco Simone in Rome—are here to stop that from happening.
So it is the 44th playing of the biennial event comes is packed with intrigue and drama—which we’ll be chronicling over the course of the next three days. Below you’ll find everything you need to know to follow Friday’s opening play in sunny and warm Italy. Check back throughout the day for updates and insight as golf’s most compelling event resumes.
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WHERE THINGS STAND
After a dominant showing in morning foursomes, Europe held a 4-0 entering afternoon fourball matches. A total of 28 matches (points) are on the line this week, with the U.S. needing to win 14 to retain the Cup (having won it last time) and Europe needing 14½ to win it back.
Here then were the Friday afternoon fourball pairings:
Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth (U.S.) vs. Viktor Hovland/Tyrrell Hatton
Scottie Scheffler/Brooks Koepka (U.S.) vs. Jon Rahm/Nicolai Hojgaard
Max Homa/Wyndham Clark (U.S.) vs. Robert MacIntyre/Justin Rose
Collin Morikawa/Xander Schauffele (U.S.) vs. Rory McIlroy/Matt Fitzpatrick
Once again Europe got off to a solid start, having made birdies in all four matches on the first hole. McIlroy and Fitzpatrick cruised in that final match, going 6 up over the first seven holes with Fitzpatrick making putts from everywhere. Here are a few highlights:
McIlroy closed out the match on the 15th hole, finishing off a 5-and-3 victory for another European win.
The Americans finally did show some signs of life in the first three matches, but after hoping to claim three wins, the U.S. could only manage three ties. Thomas and Spieth earned the road team's first half-point when they tied their match with Hovland and Hatton. The problem was Thomas and Spieth were 2 up with five holes left, then had to watch Hovland make this clutch birdie putt on 18 to tie the match.
Koepka and Scheffler thought they would get a full point, too, in their match with Rahm and Hojgaard … until Rahm made eagle on the 16th hole with this chip-in (his third chip-in of the day!).
And then yet another eagle the 18th hole to steal a halve.
It was up then to Homa and Clark to dispatch Rose and MacIntyre and finally grab a full point for the Americans, being 2 up with two holes to play. But then Europe charged, winning the 17th hole and then watching veteran Ryder Cupper Rose hole this birdie putt to win the 18th and halve the match.
That left the Americans stunned … and the Europe leading 6½-1½, matching the largest Day 1 lead in Ryder Cup history.
EUROPE'S HISTORIC MORNING SWEEP
Friday morning’s opening session wrapped up at just before 6 a.m. Eastern and the foursomes (alternate shot) session was a blowout.
Needless to say, Luke Donald's semi-controversial strategy of starting the day with a foursomes session paid off. Early in the first session, the leaderboard was draped in European blue, with the home team ahead in all four matches. That was what Donald wanted, the psychlogical lift of seeing the home team leading early.
Europe's duo of Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton had their way with Americans Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns winning the first match, 4 and 3, to secure the first point. Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg secured the second point with a 4-and-3 triumph over Max Homa and Brian Harman, and Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka knocked off Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa, 2 and 1, to set up the potential for a clean sweep.
And sweep it turned out to be with Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood defeating America's previously unbeated duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, 2 and 1, to give Europe a 4-0 advantage.
Looking for a single shot that sort of sums up how things were working for Europe. This long bomb of a chip from Hovland kind of captures it.
For American fans, there has to be disappointing in that the U.S. team didn't just get swept but was NEVER LEADING in any watch throughout the morning. But for those worried about being off to a disappointing start, it's important to recall that at last week's Solheim Cup, the U.S. swept the foursomes opening session on Friday, but didn't win the entire competition. So there's still lots to play for.
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HOW TO WATCH FRIDAY’S PLAY
If you haven't found it by now, live TV coverage of Day 1 play is on USA Network from 1:30 a.m.-12 noon (EDT). You can watching it streaming on Peacock, RyderCup.com and the Ryder Cup app.
Click here to see how to watch the rest of this week's coverage.
For fans who got up early to watch the start of the competition on Day 1, there was some frustration voiced on social media regarding what they got to see (or not see as the complaints suggest). Here's a story from Joel Beall about fans' disappointment with too many early commericals and not enough golf shots.
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OPENING TEE SHOT
If you weren’t up at 1:35 a.m. Eastern time to see this live, here’s the opening shot.
What’s it feel like to hit the first ball for your team? Luke Kerr-Dineen asked a Ryder Cup veteran who has done the honors three times to tell us all about it—and how to hit the shot.
Is This Golf's Most Pressure Packed Tee Shot?
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Our writers’ roundtable provides our final thoughts ahead of all the action at Marco Simone. Heros, goats, controversies ... don't say we didn't warn you.
If you’re looking for reasons to think this is finally the year that the U.S. ends the winless drought, check out this story from Shane Ryan.
Conversely, if you want to hear why this week will be another big one for Europe, Joel Beall has you covered here.
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A HALF CENTURY OF PERSPECTIVE
John Huggan, our European correspondent has been covering the Ryder Cup for 50 years now. Earlier this week, he put together this essay about what he’s seen and how the event has evolved.