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The European Ryder Cup team won 11 of 12 matches on Day 1 of WGC-Match Play

March 28, 2019
World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play - Round One

Warren Little

Austin is hosting this week's WGC-Match Play. Judging by the leaderboard, you're forgiven for thinking it was Paris.

Every member of the 2018 European Ryder Cup team, which delivered a butt-whoppin' to the Americans in France last fall, is competing at Austin C.C. After Day 1 of the round-robin format, there was a serious sense of déjà vu to the scene at Le Golf National, as 11 of the 12 Euro players won on Wednesday.

And not just won, but how.

The unstoppable force of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari continued their dominance, as Molinari took Satoshi Kodaira to town 5&4 while Fleetwood disposed of Ben An 3&2. Rory McIlroy, unquestionably the best player in golf over the last two months, threw another log on the fire with a 5&4 victory over Luke List. Jon Rahm, who struggled in his Ryder Cup debut, turned in the round of the day with a 7&5 smackdown of Si Woo Kim.

"Match play you know who you're playing against. You know who your target is," Rahm said. "It's a little bit easier. It's almost like a fight. And you've got to know what role to assume."

Fellow Spainard Sergio Garcia followed suit with a 4&2 win over Shane Lowry, and Paul Casey—coming off a title defense at the Valspar Championship—took down Abraham Ancer 5&3.

Even Justin Rose, who's made it out of the Round of 32 just once in 11 Match Play appearances, won his opening match over Emiliano Grillo 2&1.

"Job done I guess is a reflection," Rose remarked. "It was a decent day, not my greatest day, but good enough, which is all you need in match play."

As you'll notice, none of the above victims were of the red, white and blue. That doesn't mean the Yankees were saved from coming out on the business end of the European wave.

Henrik Stenson, a former Match Play champ, faced off against Phil Mickelson. Though the battle was far from their masterpiece at the 2016 Open Championship, the result was the same, with Stenson edging Mickelson 2&1. Thorbjørn Olesen, one of the less heralded European players, knocked off Webb Simpson 2&1. Though Kevin Kisner was not a part of the U.S. contingent in Paris, he suffered the same fate, losing to Ian Poutler 2 Up.

"Just grit and determination, I think, more than anything else," Poulter said of his success. "Hard work is what I've always done. But knuckling down, cleaning up some noise behind the scenes and really focusing on the simple stuff, and that's my game."

And just for good measure, there was some Euro-on-Euro crime, as Tyrrell Hatton defeated Rafa Cabrera Bello.

The lone loss for the Europeans? That would be Alex Noren. Noren, who hasn't cracked the top 40 in five tour starts this season, was bruised up by Haotong Li 5&4.

For Americans that take this European conquest to heart, there's a small silver lining. Jim Furyk, the Ryder Cup captain who was thrown under the bus following the U.S. defeat, wasn't left watching hopelessly on the sidelines. The 49-year-old continued his surprising rejuvenation in 2019 by knocking off two-time champ Jason Day.