Tiger Woods teed off in an electric atmosphere at his first Ryder Cup since 2012 on Friday as defending champions United States launched their quest for a first win on European soil in 25 years.
Woods, a 14-time major winner, snapped a five-year win drought only five days ago to cap a sensational comeback season after spinal fusion surgery and was set to attract huge crowds in a feature morning four-ball match alongside Masters champion Patrick Reed against British Open champion Francesco Molinari of Italy and English rookie Tommy Fleetwood.
More than 7,000 spectators at Le Golf National jammed into the largest first-tee grandstand in Ryder Cup history, cheering and screaming to produce a roar unique to the emotional atmosphere of the biennial team golf showdown.
“It’s unbelievable,” US captain Jim Furyk said. “Any Ryder Cup is magical but there are 6,000 people back here. It’s incredible.”
Four morning four-ball matches were set to be followed by four afternoon foursomes matches on Friday and Saturday with 12 concluding singles matches Sunday.
“This is going to be pretty mega,” said European talisman Ian Poulter, the Englishman whipping up loud cheers from the crowd even though he was benched for the opening session.
The Americans need 14 points to retain the trophy while Europe need 14 1/2 points to win for the ninth time in 12 attempts.
England’s Justin Rose birdied the opening hole to give himself and Spain’s Jon Rahm, another Ryder Cup newcomer, a 1-up edge on US rookie Tony Finau and reigning PGA Championship and US Open champion Brooks Koepka.
Rory McIlroy teamed with Danish rookie Thorbjorn Olesen against world number one Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler for the Americans, while Europe’s Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton faced Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
Reed grinned as the crowd booed his name while Woods remained stoic. Reed swung his club to elicit “Ole” cheers from spectators then blasted his tee shot down the heart of the fairway. Woods followed by finding the left-centre of the fairway.
Woods has been on only one triumphant team in seven prior Ryder Cup appearances, that in 1999 when the Americans made the best last-day fightback to win in their history and has eight losses in 13 matches in both foursomes and four-ball formats compared with four wins and only one defeat in singles.
Not since 1993 at The Belfry in England has an American squad tasted victory in Europe.
This marks only the second Ryder Cup in continental Europe after 1997 in Spain.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional Edits By Oisin McQueirns)