Bjorn savours ‘special’ foursomes but quickly shifts focus to Saturday

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Europe captain Thomas Bjorn gave his players just one hour to enjoy making history after they whitewashed the United States in foursomes for the first time in the Ryder Cup to turn the 42nd biennial contest on its head in Paris.

Trailing 3-1 after the morning fourballs, Bjorn kept faith with his planned afternoon pairings – including a desperately out-of-sorts Rory McIlroy – and was rewarded with a remarkable rout at Le Golf National.

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson set the tone with a 3&2 victory over Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler before McIlroy, who was the only player in the fourballs not to make a single birdie, partnered Ian Poulter to a 4&2 win over Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.

Match three looked set to finish in record fashion when controversial wild card Sergio Garcia and rookie Alex Noren raced seven up on Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau after just nine holes, but the European pair eventually had to settle for a 5&4 success.

And Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari were soon celebrating a second win of the day, on the first birthday of Fleetwood’s son Frankie for good measure, by defeating Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth by the same scoreline.

The only previous sessions Europe had won 4-0 were both in fourballs, on the opening afternoon in 1987 and 1989.

“It’s a pretty special occasion obviously, for those players that they have done that, but they are also very well aware that you can enjoy this for about an hour and then you turn around to tomorrow and you start focusing on what’s ahead of us,” Bjorn said.

“We know it’s a marathon, and we’re delighted with the way the day turned out, because it was a fairly tough morning. They wanted to go out and prove something this afternoon, and that was nice to see, but it says a lot about the group.”

In total the European pairs were four under par in the afternoon in difficult windy conditions and the Americans 11 over, with only some late birdies preventing an even worse disparity.

“We got the momentum in the morning and Europe flipped it quickly and got some unbelievable momentum in the afternoon for 4-0,” US captain Jim Furyk said.

“We played for eight points so far out of 28, a pretty small percentage of this golf tournament has been played. I think our guys will respond, I really do. I have a lot of confidence in this team.

“I think that [whitewash] is going to leave a sour taste in their mouth tonight and they have to sleep on that. We’ll come back tomorrow, and I bet we’ll be fine.”

Europe were on the receiving end of a whitewash in the opening session at Hazeltine in 2016 and were in danger of suffering a repeat until some late heroics from Molinari and Fleetwood, who birdied five of the last seven holes to beat Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed 3&1.

McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen had won just one hole in a 4&2 loss to Johnson and Fowler, while Rose and Jon Rahm twice enjoyed a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau in the opening match but eventually lost on the 18th.

Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton fell three down to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas when Spieth made five birdies in the first seven holes, but the English pair fought back superbly to get back on level terms after 13 holes, only for Thomas to crucially birdie the 15th and hold on for victory.

Molinari and Fleetwood were also in trouble when they lost three holes to par on the front nine to trail by two with eight to play, but Molinari birdied the 11th and 12th, Fleetwood repeated the feat on the 15th and 16th and Molinari finished it in style with another birdie on 17.

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