Ryder Cup 2016: Winners and Losers from Day 1

Brendan O'Meara@@BrendanOMearaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2016

Ryder Cup 2016: Winners and Losers from Day 1

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Day 1 of the 41st Ryder Cup started with a sweep and ended with an eagle.

    Team USA’s foursomes exited the morning matches 4-0 on the heels of its two young guns, the balloon of which was soon punctured by the FedEx Cup winner.

    ESPN golf writer Michael Collins said it best when Team USA’s Patrick Reed hit his tee shot on the first hole: "For the U.S. team it can't be overstated how important that first match is to set the tone for the squad. Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth are sending a clear message not only to Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose but to every other match on the course."

    Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth were captain Davis Love III’s dream team, and they played like it, setting the tone for the Americans.

    But as the afternoon wore on, Europe clawed back with titanic performances from Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson and an emphatic worthy-of-a-bow eagle by Rory McIlroy that ensured a 5-3 score between the two superpowers.

    Europe is playing with a chip on its shoulder, and the Americans are playing desperate. That’s a recipe for an epic weekend, but first we need to make sense of Day 1.

Loser: Andy Sullivan

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    You had to know that the Europeans’ rookies would either make or break the team.

    In the morning sessions, perhaps it was Andy Sullivan who was most affected by his inexperience.

    Sullivan blew a chip past a hole that put far too much pressure on his FedEx Cup-winning partner, McIlroy. They lost the hole.

    Then on No. 17, with the match one-up in favor of the Euros, USA's Rickie Fowler landed his tee shot within eight feet on the par three. Sullivan followed by landing the ball in the water hazard, much to the joy of the surrounding gallery.

    That hole marked the third straight win for Phil Mickelson and Fowler, putting them one up. The pair would close it out one hole later.

    This was worrisome heading into this Ryder Cup for Europe: enrolling six rookies on Europe’s roster who might not be able to level up.

    Sullivan had bright moments, but ultimately it was he who put his pairing in too tough a spot to overcome.

Winner: Righty Lefty

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    How did Mickelson and Fowler pull off the one-up win? It looked downright impossible after Mickelson sailed his tee shot on No. 6 over the fence.

    Fowler—playing what would be their third shot—then blasted right, but not quite as far. It meant Lefty had to shoot right-handed to punch the ball out on to the fairway. Good thing they weren’t playing stroke play, because Team USA shot a seven on that hole.

    “It was a lot of heart,” Mickelson told Golf Channel after his round. “I felt more pressure than any other Ryder Cup. My man got me to hit some shots at the end, some iron shots. He got the best out of me. I knew when I met him years ago he was special.”

    Fowler famously, or infamously, hadn’t won a match in his two prior Ryder Cups. He was a controversial captain’s pick with that 4-4 overall record, but he played like someone who was undefeated. That’s why he was a pick. Swagger, confidence.

    “There’s no real way to describe it,” Fowler told Golf Channel afterward. “Two years back we had some control. Europe did some pretty crazy stuff on us. To be with somebody like [Mickelson], I looked up to as a kid and to get my first full point, is pretty special.”

    Fowler and Mickelson’s rebound gave Team USA the clean sweep of the morning sessions, the first time it did that since 1975. The captain that year? Arnold Palmer.

Loser: 'Baying Mob of Imbeciles'

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    NationalClubGolfer.com columnist Pete Willett, brother to Masters champion and Ryder Cup rookie Danny Willett, made headlines this week throwing trans-Atlantic darts at the American populace.

    This predictably riled up American patriots. Maybe because it hit home? Pete wrote:

    For the Americans to stand a chance of winning, they need their baying mob of imbeciles to caress their egos every step of the way. Like one of those brainless bastards from your childhood, the one that pulled down your shorts during the school’s Christmas assembly… they only have the courage to keg you if they’re backed up by a giggling group of reprobates. Team Europe needs to shut those groupies up.

    Which is hilarious.

    He continued: “They need to silence the pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants, stuffed on cookie dough and pissy beer, pausing between mouthfuls of hot dog so they can scream ‘Baba booey’ until their jelly faces turn red.

    Which is even funnier.

    Pete carried on driving the dagger somehow deeper, so when Danny teed the ball off, do you think the American fanbase who had spent the entire morning screaming at every missed Euro putt and errant tee bomb would try to level up?

    After Danny split the fairway on No. 1, an isolated cell within the gallery yelled, “Baba booey!”

    Insert facepalm GIF.

    ESPN’s Bob Harig tweeted: “Maybe the best way for American fans to handle the Danny Willett situation would be to NOT act like the imbeciles his brother referenced?”

    Jason Sobel of ESPN also tweeted: “Danny Willett hits opening tee shot and spectator yells, 'BABA BOOEY!' Baying mob of imbeciles, as one might say.

    The energy from the gallery was ineffective, what you expect from the RC. Just a week ago, the American gallery cheered and roared for McIlroy as he won the FedEx Cup playoffs. Barely a week later, they changed teams faster than Lando Calrissian did in The Empire Strikes Back.

    We outgrew get-in-the-hole guy in 1997. What angers people most is that Pete is correct, and the gallery proved him right on nearly every hole the entire day.

Winner: Patrick Reed's Ryder Cup DNA

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    TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

    Reed was born for the Ryder Cup. He was the only player in that foursome without a major championship, yet at times it looked like he was the best of them all.

    Yet when it comes to these kinds of moments, team moments, Reed is practically unbeatable. He and Spieth made the morning look, well, simple.

    “I wouldn’t say simple,” Reed told Golf Channel after he rolled in the clincher. “We had a great game plan coming in and stuck with it. We hit a lot of greens. ... We were lucky enough to...have good looks.”

    Spieth and Reed are like peanut butter and chocolate. The combination of the two is greater than each individual part.

    On hole No. 9, Reed and Spieth made Stenson make a two-foot putt instead of conceding it.

    “Honestly, looking back, yeah, we probably should have given,” Spieth said. “We were on the side of the green where the pin was higher. ... At the same time we didn’t want to run in and make mistakes. ...[Stenson’s] never going to miss it.”

    Then Spieth uncorked an eye roll to end all eye rolls to give you an idea of what he thought about that exchange.

    But it was this morning pairing, the dream team, that set the tone and won the first point to lead the a.m. sweep.

    Unfortunately for them, Rose and Stenson uncaged a flock of birdies in the afternoon to even the score between the two.

Loser: J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore

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    Ryan Moore after missing a putt.
    Ryan Moore after missing a putt.Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

    Captain Love picked Ryan Moore to make putts, and for most of the four-ball round, Moore failed on that directive.

    As a result, Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello went up by as many as five holes.

    Neither J.B. Holmes nor Moore could mount any sort of charge until it was far too late.

    Moore awakened late in the round by draining two monster putts on Nos. 14 and 15, but he couldn’t make it a trifecta on the par-five 16th hole. He rolled it a few inches to the right of the cup, thus giving the match to the Spaniards.

    The pairing of these two captain’s picks, one being a rookie, was symbolic of what took place for the Americans on the afternoon. They lacked the electricity they had in the morning.

    Part of that was stale play, but a larger part was the Europeans taking flight with birdie after birdie.

    Team USA drew much of its power and confidence from the crowds, which seemed far more boisterous in the morning. Maybe it was fatigue, but the gallery needed a jolt late in the day.

    The afternoon pairings failed to galvanize the gallery, and Captain Love will have to find the power somewhere among his 12 men.

Winner: The Spanish Armada

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    Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    Garcia, whose gilded putter comes alive every two years, rolled in five birdies to lead his pairing over Holmes and Moore.

    And it wasn’t just Garcia, it was Cabrera Bello, his countryman who added an extra bit of flair to a near flawless round of four-ball.

    “I love it. I love golf, playing every week,” Garcia told Golf Channel after his round. “This is very special for me—wait, that was wrong—this is very special for us. To play with this guy. He was a rock out there. He gave me so much confidence to go for shots and putts.”

    Cabrera Bello, one of the six rookies Captain Clarke suited up, birdied his first hole, back when the American galleries hadn’t been beaten to death by Euro thrash.

    “I’ve been practicing with Sergio and learning from his game throughout the entire year,” Cabrera Bello told Golf Channel. “We’re long, longtime friends. To make my Ryder Cup debut with my friend is extremely special. I played great today, and most importantly, Europe got the point.”

    The U.S. got the point as well: Europe isn’t going anywhere. If ever there were a time when Europe could have been discouraged, it was being swept 4-0 in the morning matches. It stayed the course and nearly countered with a sweep in the afternoon.

    “That’s the Ryder Cup,” Clarke said afterward. “That’s what all these people come to watch. Historically, Europe is stronger in the foursomes and America is stronger in the four-ball. ... They showed tremendous bravery and heart. ... As captain, I’m extremely proud of them.”

    The Spanish Armada came to play. Garcia always does (a stout 16-5-6 record), and Cabrera Bello didn’t play like a rookie.

Loser: Martin Kaymer's No-Show

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke told Golf Channel he needs his veteran players to be leaders. He said, “You need to show [the rookies] what the Ryder Cup is all about.”

    While the team as a whole responded in the afternoon by winning three of the four four-ball matches, Martin Kaymer, a two-time major winner, did not respond.

    It's a different game we play in the afternoon and I think we are all ready, Kaymer said, per the Associated press (h/t ESPN.com.) We are fired up. We want to keep that trophy and bring it home to Europe.

    He played with Willett, and it took 10 holes for Kaymer to record the best score in four-ball. For the entirety of the front nine, it was all Willett. And despite Willett’s efforts, the U.S. duo of Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka mopped the floor with Kaymer and Willett.

    In the morning, Kaymer played with Garcia, but those two lost control on hole No. 12 as Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson won five holes in a row to win the match 4&2.

    The way it looks, Kaymer may have been a sour captain’s pick for Clarke.

Winner: 'A Pretty Good Shellackin''

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    For those among the “baying mob of imbeciles,” Team USA should very well be ahead 8-0 or 7-1 or—at the very worst—6-2 heading into Saturday.

    But Rose and Stenson seized the momentum from Reed and Spieth and dusted the 20-somethings 5&4. This prompted a Golf Channel broadcast to say, "That's a pretty good shellackin' there."

    It sure was.

    “We played great this morning,” Rose told Golf Channel after the round. “We didn’t make any putts [in the morning]. ... We had a hard time picking lines.”

    The duo was pleased with how it played in the morning. They simply got beat.

    “It’s one thing if you’re losing and playing badly,” Stenson told Golf Channel. “We were pretty happy with our performance. ... [For the afternoon], just go out and carry on and we did that...and got the point back. It makes it sweeter when you beat the guys who you lost to in the morning.”

    Rose and Stenson represented the first of what would be three points on the afternoon for the Europeans.

    Rose and Stenson—who birdied nine of the 14 holes—will likely square off against Speith and Reed again as the marquee foursome of the morning.

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