Justin Rose shows value of experience at Ryder Cup as he makes fast start for Team Europe

Phil Casey 28/09/2018
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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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United States rookie Tony Finau makes shaky start to 2018 Ryder Cup

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United States rookie Tony Finau made an anxious start to the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National near Paris.

The 29-year-old was given the honour of teeing off first in the morning fourballs and smashed a three-iron 300 yards down the fairway, so far it rolled out through the rough and right up against the sleepers guarding the edge of the lake.

It meant he would have an impossible stance for his second shot into a green guarded by water.

His team-mate Brooks Koekpa found the fairway as did Europe’s pair of Justin Rose and Jon Rahm, the rookie who showed no first tee nerves by encouraging the near 7,000-capacity grandstand to make as much noise as they could.

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Thomas Bjorn throws debutants into the action at Ryder Cup

Phil Casey 28/09/2018
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Europe captain Thomas Bjorn pinned his hopes of a fast start on his rookies in the opening session of the 42nd Ryder Cup on Friday.

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.

Justin Rose, who won £7.6million on Sunday by claiming the FedEx Cup title in Atlanta, partnered Stenson in the first match at Gleneagles in 2014 and at Hazeltine two years ago.

But the Olympic champion was handed a new partner in Rahm for Friday’s opening fourballs contest 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, with Rory McIlroy and Olesen facing world number one Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler in match two.

The all-English pairing of Paul Casey and Hatton then had the daunting task of taking on Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, with Fleetwood and Open champion Francesco Molinari having an equally tough task against ‘Captain America’ Patrick Reed and a rejuvenated Tiger Woods.

Europe crucially lost the opening session 4-0 on their way to defeat at Hazeltine in 2016, but Bjorn does not feel his selections represent any sort of a gamble.

“I think I ran into one of these problems that everyone says is a positive problem; that everyone is playing well and everyone is feeling good,” Bjorn said.

“They have been just itching to go, especially Thorbjorn and Jon and Tyrrell, they are just really desperate to get out on that golf course. I wanted to get them out there.

“Tommy is a different guy in the way that he’s won around here [2017 French Open] and he’s been real quality for the last couple of years. He’s very calm and relaxed. He and Francesco are great together and they feel really comfortable and good.

“This is what we go with Friday morning, and it’s a marathon. It really is. I just believe very much in this team. I believe in them as a group. I believe in them as individuals, and I just really felt like this was what I saw.”

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