Europe captain Thomas Bjorn may have pinned his hopes of a fast start on his rookies, but it was veteran Justin Rose who made the best start in the opening session of the 42nd Ryder Cup.
While experienced wild cards Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia were left on the sidelines, Bjorn opted to throw debutants Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Thorbjorn Olesen straight into the action at Le Golf National.
The quartet were all paired with experienced players, with Rose alongside Spain’s Rahm in the opening fourballs match as Europe looked to regain the trophy and maintain an unbeaten record on home soil which stretches back to 1993.
Rose and Rahm were up against three-time major winner Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau and while Rahm was relaxed enough to encourage the crowd to cheer while he hit his opening shot, it was Rose who struck first after a brilliant approach set up a tap-in birdie.
Rory McIlroy and Olesen were facing world number one Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler in match two and Olesen got off to a nightmare start by pulling his opening shot into the water to the left of the fairway, but McIlroy’s par was enough to remain on level terms.
The all-English pairing of Paul Casey and Hatton had the daunting task of taking on Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas and Spieth, who failed to qualify for last week’s Tour Championship, almost span his approach to the first back into the hole to set up a winning birdie.
Fleetwood and Open champion Francesco Molinari had arguably the toughest match on their hands against ‘Captain America’ Patrick Reed and a rejuvenated Tiger Woods, but after Reed found the water with his approach, Molinari holed from six feet for a winning birdie.
Finau got the opening match back to all square in style by chipping in for an eagle two on the par-four sixth, where the tee had been pushed forward to allow players to drive the green.
However, he promptly drove out of bounds on the next and with Koepka also hitting a wild drive, Rose’s par was enough to put Europe back in front and Rahm doubled their advantage with a birdie on the eighth.
Match two remained all square as Olesen narrowly missed for a winning birdie on the seventh, while an inspired Spieth had made four birdies in the first six holes to take him and Thomas two up on Hatton and Casey.
Woods was conceded a winning birdie on the second after the European pair both found sand off the tee, but Fleetwood’s birdie on the fourth restored their lead.
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