CHASKA, Minnesota, Sept 30 (Reuters) - With a fired-up Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed leading the way, the United States held an early advantage midway through the opening foursomes matches on a chilly Friday at the 41st Ryder Cup.
Thunderous roars of “USA, USA, USA” echoed across the ultra-long Hazeltine National layout as the Americans led holders Europe in three and trailed in one in the four alternate-shot encounters.
Twice major winner Spieth and fellow young gun Reed, who formed an unbeaten partnership as rookies at the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland, were two up on European heavyweights Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson after 10 holes in the top match.
Fan favourites Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, who had been two down after six holes, were one up on Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Englishman Andy Sullivan after 10.
In the anchor match, U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar were four up against an out-of-sorts Lee Westwood of England and Belgian rookie Thomas Pieters.
The only blue on the board for Europe on an overcast day in Minnesota came from Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Germany’s Martin Kaymer who were one up on Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson after eight.
Olympic champion Rose and British Open winner Stenson, who went 3-0 when paired together at Gleneagles two years ago, were sent off first by captain Darren Clarke in a bid to give Europe a fast start.
However, they soon found themselves two down after Spieth sank a 12-footer to birdie the par-four second and followed with a five-footer at the par-five third.
A superb approach by Spieth to six feet at the par-four seventh set up a comfortable birdie putt for Reed to put the Americans three up before Stenson and Rose trimmed the deficit to two when their opponents bogeyed the ninth.
Cup veteran Mickelson and Fowler, handicapped by a few wayward tee shots, initially struggled against McIlroy and Sullivan but then reeled off three straight birdies from the seventh to edge one ahead.
Fowler chipped in for birdie from just off the green at the par-four ninth, his ball slowly tracking from left to right before it disappeared into the cup to spark loud cheers from the crowd.
Europe have won three consecutive Ryder Cups through a mixture of shrewd captaincy, consistently good team chemistry, stellar play and an uncanny knack of sinking key putts at crucial moments.
The United States, who have a proud record on American soil with just four losses since the matches began in 1927, are bidding to end a run of eight defeats in the past 10 editions. (Editing by Tony Jimenez)