HAVEN, Wis. — The U.S. Ryder Cup team said farewell to one era and hello to a new one that included the highest scoring Friday by an American side since the Ford administration.
The Americans played Europe in the biennial event after a three-year wait without a guy named Tiger or Phil for the first time since 1993.
They did so Friday at windy, sun-splashed and jubilant Whistling Straits with both youth and experience — and with a display of power and creativity that allowed them to go 3-1 each in morning alternate-shot and afternoon fourball matches.
They head to Saturday’s two sessions with a 6-2 lead over a European team that has won four of the last five and seven of the last nine Ryder Cups.
“We can come back from 6-2,” European star Rory McIlroy said.
It would have been 7-1 if Europe hadn’t recovered late in the day to halve two matches on the 18th hole.
“That’s a good momentum boost for our side as well,” U.S. captain Steve Stricker said. The last time the teams played, the Americans led 3-1 after Friday morning and then got swept 0-4 in the afternoon in Paris in 2018 and trounced by Sunday’s end.
This time, the 12-man U.S. team has 10 of the world’s top-13 ranked players while Europe has world No. 1 Jon Rahm, who won and halved his two matches on a day McIlroy went 0-2. McIlroy is not in Europe’s alternate-shot lineup for Saturday morning, a first.
The United States’ six Ryder Cup rookies went 6-0-2 on Friday.
The U.S. team’s oldest player, 37-year-old and world No. 2 Dustin Johnson, won both his Friday matches. So, too, did Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Xander Schauffele.
“I still don’t feel old,” Johnson said after winning an afternoon match with Schauffele 2 and 1 over Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger. “But I know I’m the oldest on the team.”
Schauffele said he just watched Johnson do what he does as the world’s No. 2 ranked player.
“I just took a step back and stayed out of his way,” he said. “That’s what you do when Dustin’s rolling.”
McIlroy is not in Saturday’s alternate-shot lineup for Europe while Stricker will go with the same four two-man teams he sent out Friday morning, only in a different order.
“It went so well this morning, why change things up?” Stricker asked. “To win both sessions 3 and 1 was a great day for us.”
So he’ll save again such players as long-hitter hitter Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau for the afternoon foursomes.
On Friday, DeChambeau impressed with that astounding length, Jordan Spieth with his artistry on an improbable greenside shot that nearly sent him tumbling down Whistling Straits’ rugged dunes into Lake Michigan.
Another long hitter, Finau did so with his putter as much as his driver. He holed a 39-foot putt that started his afternoon and kept it going until he and partner Harris English defeated McIlroy and Shane Lowry 4 and 3.
“It’s funny how momentum works,” said Finau, whose putting helped keep that momentum going from morning to afternoon sessions. “You know it can change at any given moment. We knew in the match we had to keep the pedal to the metal. It can change at any time.”
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