Golf-Delayed Ryder Cup returns to raucous reception
By Steve Keating
KOHLER, Wisconsin, Sept 24 (Reuters) - The first Ryder Cup since 2018 teed off on Friday to a raucous reception as the Spanish pair of world number one Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia led Europe's title defence against a U.S. squad determined to reclaim the trophy.
With the sun rising over Lake Michigan a long day of golf at Whistling Straits got underway with the opening foursomes and the new "Spanish Armada" of Rahm and Garcia taking on the U.S. pairing of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, who were teamed together in 2018 in Paris.
The Spaniards were introduced to predictable boos and the Americans to wild cheers as the biennial competition got off to an electric start with the roars echoing across the links-style layout next to the Wisconsin shoreline.
Over 40,000 golf fans are expected to pile into Whistling Straits but the majority will be waving American flags with COVID-19 travel restrictions keeping most of the European supporters at home after the event was delayed by a year.
The hostile welcome was nothing new for Garcia who is playing in his 10th Ryder Cup but the 41-year-old had a nervy start, sending his tee shot into the bunker while Thomas was perfectly placed in the middle of the dewy fairway.
The Americans could not turn that effort into an early lead as the hole ended tied as Dustin Johnson and British Open champion Collin Morikawa stood on the opening tee preparing to take on Briton Paul Casey and Norwegian Ryder Cup debutant Viktor Hovland.
Other matches will see the British pairing of Lee Westwood, playing in a Team Europe record-equalling 11th Ryder Cup, and Matt Fitzpatrick going against big-hitting American Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.
The last match of the first session could be the most explosive with the fiery pairing of Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy and the "Postman" Ian Poulter taking on two American young guns Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele and in-form Patrick Cantlay, coming off a win at the Tour championship.
The morning foursomes will be followed immediately by afternoon fourballs.
(Reporting by Steve Keating, Editing by Ken Ferris)