Team USA was generally considered to be a favorite over Team Europe heading into the 2018 Ryder Cup, but it was evident Friday during the first day of play at Le Golf National that the European team may be better suited for the course.
McIlroy will team up with Sergio Garcia in the first fourball against Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau, who defeated Justin Rose and Jon Rahm in yesterday's fourballs.
United States skipper Jim Furyk left out Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed after their defeat by Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood got Europe on the board, and his players totally lost the momentum they had built up earlier in the day. At one point, they made, what, six out of eight birdies on the back nine, and only one person was in the hole at a time. Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren inflicted a 5&4 defeat on Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, with a miserable session completed when Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood - the only Europeans to score a point in the morning - beating Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth by the same margin.
Leading 5-3 overnight after a clean sweep of the foursomes matches on Friday afternoon, Europe came out on another crisp, clear-blue French morning at the same rampaging pace, and the USA wilted under the onslaught. Johnson and Fowler closed out their four-ball match against McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen after 16 holes on Friday.
The Americans edged back ahead, though, and Hatton missed a 15-foot attempt to salvage half a point on the last green.
The duo came into the Ryder Cup as one of America's best teams.
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It was largely attributed to Jose Mourinho's side being knocked out of the Champions League early last season. When we play like this, it's easier for us".
That sent Spieth and Thomas three up, and three more birdies on the 13th, 14th and 15th sealed the win. McIlroy's chip from the fringes lipped out yet Garcia banged in his putt from range, piling pressure on the USA rookie that made him push his attempt left - back to four up when it could so easily have been two.
There have been two memorable comebacks from a 10-6 deficit.
And it was McIlroy that hit one of the shots of the day. "We keep saying the same stuff, but there's a lot of points to be won still".
What a joy it would be to see him and Poulter paired off in the Sunday singles. That makes for a dilemma: do you put those differences aside for the good of the team, or are they too great to overcome? The Americans did it at Brookline in 1999, while Europe pulled off the Miracle at Medinah in 2012. "Playing Ryder Cups over here are extremely fun", said three-time major victor Spieth.
Twice in the space of two matches, Spieth and Thomas had tamed Europe's talisman Poulter.
"We know exactly what the issue has been, " Mickelson said prior to the Ryder Cup.