By Martyn Herman
ROME (Reuters) – Spain’s Jon Rahm and partner Tyrrell Hatton crushed world number one Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns 4 & 3 to lead a European charge as the Ryder Cup began in a blaze of colour on Friday.
Massive crowds flocked to the Marco Simone course just east of Rome for the start of the 44th edition of the historic team event — the majority of them roaring for Luke Donald’s Europe team as they set out to reclaim the trophy.
A party atmosphere with soccer-style chanting and Viking thunderclaps greeted the opening foursomes match on the first tee with not a spare seat in the 5,000-capacity grandstand.
Scheffler’s opening drive slid into the rough and although the opening two holes were shared, an inspired Rahm holed a putt from off the green at the third to light the touchpaper for what was to become a romping win.
Rahm converted a short birdie putt on the fifth after Hatton’s neat chip to put Europe two up and although debutant Burns made a putt to win the sixth it was a temporary reprieve.
A fired-up Rahm struck the pin with a sensational tee shot at the scenic par-three seventh with Hatton not even required to putt. Scheffler and Burns hung on grimly with a succession of hole-saving putts around the turn and looked likely to win the 10th only for Rahm to chip in to secure a half.
It was a body blow the Americans could not recover from and Europe won the 11th and 12th holes and celebrated victory on the 15th to put the first point on the board.
Europe need 14.5 points reclaim the Ryder Cup they lost in Whistling Straits in 2021 when they suffered a 19-9 thrashing.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)