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US falters in afternoon Ryder Cup play, but brings lead to Day 2

CHASKA, Minn.--It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. You can forget about Team USA running away with the Ryder Cup this week at Hazeltine National Golf Club. After losing all four foursomes matches Friday morning, Europe stormed ba...

Sep 30, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to winning the match on the 16th green in the afternoon four-ball matches during the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to winning the match on the 16th green in the afternoon four-ball matches during the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

CHASKA, Minn.-It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

You can forget about Team USA running away with the Ryder Cup this week at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

After losing all four foursomes matches Friday morning, Europe stormed back in the afternoon, winning three of four four-ball matches to reduce the U.S.'s no-longer-secure Day 1 lead to 5-3.

The Americans' morning domination was their first 4-0 session since 1981 and had everyone who was rooting for the Red, White and Blue feeling pretty good around lunchtime about ending Europe's run of three straight victories.

"It's fun to get off to a good start," U.S. veteran Phil Mickelson said after he and partner Rickie Fowler secured one of the U.S.'s four morning points. "We've never had a start like this since I've been a player. It's a good start, but it's just a start. Let's not jump the gun here."

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Good advice.

As the weather warmed up 15 degrees in the afternoon, to a sun-splashed 72, the Americans' putters turned January-in-Minnesota cold.

You didn't have to look far to see the difference between the morning and afternoon sessions. In the morning, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed took it to Europe's best team, beating Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson 3 and 2. In the afternoon, Rose and Stenson returned the favor with a 5-and-4 demolition of Spieth and Reed.

"It's one thing if you're losing if you're playing badly, but we were both pretty happy with our performance in the morning," Stenson said. "Makes it sweeter when you beat the guys you lost to in the morning, that's for sure."

Europe's best player, Rory McIlroy, reversed a morning loss with partner Andy Sullivan by teaming with Thomas Pieters to beat Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar 3 and 2 in the afternoon.

McIlroy went Wrestlemania on the crowd, pumping his fist vigorously, his face turning orange, when he rolled in the clinching 20-foot eagle putt on the No. 16 green.

"Even before I hit that putt, I wanted to put an exclamation point on that session for us," McIlroy said. "I actually thought about the celebration before I hit the putt. I just want everyone that's watching out there to know how much this means to us, how much it means to me personally, and obviously us as a team."

Two American teams played both sessions Friday - Spieth-Reed and Dustin Johnson-Kuchar - and both followed morning victories with afternoon defeats.

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"We played really well in the morning, and we actually played pretty good this afternoon," U.S. captain Davis Love III said. "We just ran into a couple of buzzsaws. They seemed to birdie every hole."

Love is going with his hot players in Saturday morning's foursomes matches, using teams that secured four of the U.S.'s five points on Friday: Snedeker-Koepka, Mickelson-Fowler, Reed-Spieth and Jimmy Walker-Zach Johnson.

Europe is splitting up its best team, pairing Rose with Chris Wood and Stenson with Matt Fitzpatrick. Wood and Fitzpatrick, both Ryder Cup rookies, did not play on Friday.

"They are almost like waiting for Christmas; they want to go and play," European captain Darren Clarke said of his two rookies. "They didn't get the opportunity today, and I didn't want to hold them back anymore. They both have been playing very well."

Sep 30, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Phil Mickelson of the United States plays his shot from the sixth tee in the morning foursome matches during the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Phil Mickelson of the United States plays his shot from the sixth tee in the morning foursome matches during the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

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