Winners and losers from Friday at the Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup returned Friday after a three-year wait, and the action from the team event in Wisconsin did not disappoint.
The United States took a dominant 6-2 lead over the Europeans, a massive step toward winning just their second Ryder Cup since 2008.
Here are the winners and losers from the opening two sessions at Whistling Straits.
Xander Schauffele may be a Ryder Cup rookie, but the man is no stranger to dominance at the international level. Schauffele brought the success he showed at the Presidents Cup in 2019 and the Olympics earlier this summer to Whistling Straits with a perfect 2-0 start in the event. The 27-year-old teamed with Patrick Cantlay in the morning to annihilate the star European team of Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy by an impressive 5&3 margin. The pair's approach game was brilliant, with seven birdie looks of 11 feet or less over the 15 holes played. Schauffele then paired with Dustin Johnson in the afternoon and continued his strong play. The pair combined to shoot a sizzling 7-under.
The Spanish contingent
Jon Rahm came to Whistling Straits with an 0-2 record in team play after his 2018 Ryder Cup debut. The world No. 1 didn't wait long to fix that. Teaming with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia in the opening match of the day, Rahm poured in putts from all over to help vanquish Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth 3&1. The U.S. Open champion made over 100 feet of putts on the day as he and Garcia fired an impressive 5-under par total over the 17 holes. With Garcia on the sidelines for the afternoon session, Rahm partnered with Tyrrell Hatton to tie Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler. If the Europeans have any chance of coming back, the Spaniards must be together for both team sessions on Saturday.
With just a 4-8-0 record in team play at the Ryder Cup entering Friday, Johnson's resume in the event is underwhelming considering his talent. Through two sessions at Whistling Straits, he appears determined to fix that. Johnson paired with rookie Collin Morikawa in the morning for a sizzling 5-under score en route to victory. He went back out in the afternoon with Schauffele and put on a show for the raucous American-heavy crowd. Johnson poured in three straight birdies to start the back nine, pushing the pair past Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger.
Finau made his Ryder Cup debut in Paris with a solid 2-1-0 mark despite the Americans' loss, and the world No. 9 carried that over to Whistling Straits. After sitting the opening session, Finau announced his intentions with a bomb for birdie on the first hole in four-ball and didn't let up throughout the day. The 32-year-old made six birdies on the round to lead his pairing with Harris English to victory. Expect to see Finau in both sessions on Saturday.
Ian Poulter's place in Ryder Cup history is already cemented, but it's safe to say the magic of "The Postman" in the team portion of the event is officially done. Poulter partnered with Rory McIlroy in the morning foursome session and immediately got blown off the golf course. The European duo lost each of the first five holes to Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay before eventually losing 5&3. With the loss, Poulter is now a shocking 1-4-1 in his last six team matches at the Ryder Cup. It won't be a surprise to see the Englishman sit the remainder of the team portion before playing in Sunday's singles.
We've grown accustomed to seeing this version of McIlroy at the Ryder Cup.
On Friday, we saw plenty of this from the four-time major winner at Whistling Straits.
For the first time in his Ryder Cup career, McIlroy lost two separate matches in the same day. After getting trounced alongside Poulter in the opening session, McIlroy teamed with Shane Lowry in the afternoon hoping to find a spark. It didn't come, as the European pair couldn't keep up with Finau and English. Outside of an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole, McIlroy failed to post a score better than par on any of his 15 holes in the afternoon. It's borderline impossible to envision a European victory without McIlroy as a major player, so captain Harrington will need to get his star going for Saturday's action.
On television at least, the atmosphere at Whistling Straits seemed to be lacking what we've become accustomed to at the Ryder Cup. One of the main reasons for that is likely the absence of European fans. With travel restrictions due to COVID-19 making it difficult for visiting fans to make the trip to Wisconsin, the one-sided support led to a lack of interaction between spectators and players. Another reason is the way Whistling Straits' spectating areas are laid out. While the endless dunes and mounds provide some great spots to watch the play, the crowds are often a fair distance from the greens, limiting the intimate feel usually shown at these events.