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Europe complete Ryder Cup foursomes clean sweep to take 4-0 lead over USA

There is a beautiful spectator spot alongside the green at Marco Simone’s long dogleg left 14th. A high peak perfectly placed for views of that hole and the 15th in either valley. At 10am an American son dressed head to toe in stars and stripes turned to his father with an unexpected concern.

What a triumph for Luke Donald’s pairings and his bold call to kick off Friday with foursomes. Just before that 14th is the 4th. When Tommy Fleetwood put his tee-shot to seven foot in match 4 and Rory McIlroy delivered with the putt, every screen on the Rome course turned all blue. Europe were up in all four. By lunchtime, US skipper Zach Johnson was coming to terms with a historic sweep. It has never happened in the modern era, although the USA did win all four against Great Britain and Ireland in 1975.

Not only did they not win a morning match in Rome. They never led in one either.

The hits came raining down early on. Viktor Hovland delivered the first blow. His name was chanted most passionately at the opening grandstand and he duly gave them more reason to cheer with a chip from the fringe that curled into the cup. His fist punched the air and quickly America were on the ropes.

Jon Rahm delivering the goods for Team Europe 🙌 #RyderCup pic.twitter.com/n7WE13usx9

— Ryder Cup (@rydercup) September 29, 2023

Jon Rahm was a juggernaut. On the tenth, his agitated partner Tyrrell Hatton found the rough and was short of the green with his third. While world number one Scottie Scheffler waited over a six-foot par putt, Rahm rolled back and holed from the fairway. They eventually stormed to a 4&3 victory over Scheffler and Sam Burns. Hovland and rookie Ludvig Aberg cruised past Brian Harman and Max Homa in similar fashion.

Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka won 2&1 over Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa. Fowler enjoyed a resurgent season to secure his first win on tour in more than four years with a noticeable flat stick: an out-of-production zebra-striped mallet but his putting let him down badly here. Continually it broke right and aggravated their struggles.

“We enjoy it out there and I felt we played some good golf. Look, we dodged a few bullets,” said Lowry. “You are going to get that in match play.” 

That is an inescapable element of the morning’s action. For all the home team did well, their dominance came because of what America did terribly. Lowry sent his tee-shot on 10 into the water and was so far offline on the 16th that he actually cleared it. At no point could their opponents take advantage of such opportunities.

Europe’s vice-captains, players, and fans all stood together to watch Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood close it out against the formidable duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.

A closely-run bout came down to the 17th. McIlroy nailed an iron to within three feet. Cantlay gave his partner a chance at a birdie putt as well. Fleetwood calmly slotted home.

I was waiting for a moment like that all day to be honest,” said Fleetwood.

“I felt I let two or three chances go by and sort of kept them in it. I was due one, felt really good over it. It is one of those Ryder Cup moments.”