SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Well, that escalated quickly.
The U.S. had to feel chipper after taking three out of four matches in morning fourballs to kick off this 42nd Ryder Cup. Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka rallied late to steal a point. DJ and Rickie Fowler were a seamless combo of power and precision. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas played an inspired match and came up clutch when it mattered most.
But then in the afternoon foursomes (aka, alternate shot) the wind kicked up and turned this contest on its head.
Four matches, four European wins.
Spieth and Thomas made just one birdie in their match. DJ and Fowler played 16 holes in three over par. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson jumped out to a 2-up lead through five holes and then collapsed. Oh, and Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau? They were 7 down through nine and and shown the door on the 14th. So Europe takes a 5-3 lead into Saturday, and after surveying the wreckage, you might be asking yourself, just how ominous of a sign is that 4-0 bloodbath for the U.S.?
We’ll let history be the guide. Since the event’s inception, there have been nine previous instances of 4-0 sessions. The U.S. first swept foursomes in 1947 (when there was only one session of those matches). They turned the trick again in 1963, ’75, ’81 and most recently in the opening session of the 2016 Cup at Hazeltine. There have also been four 4-0 sweeps in fourballs, two for the U.S. (1967 and ’71) and two for Europe (1987 and ’89).
Now, the big-picture question: Has a team ever lost a session 4-0 and gone on to win the Cup?
No. Nope. Never.
In 1947 the U.S. steamrolled Great Britain (which didn’t have the rest of the continent helping them at that point) 11-1. In ’63, ’67, ‘71 and ’75 the U.S. again cruised to wins on the backs of those assorted 4-0 wipeouts.
In 1987 at Muirfield Village in Ohio, Europe swept the U.S. in fourballs and went on to win a road game 15-13. In ’89 they won another fourball session 4-0 and kept the Cup when the matches ended in a 14-14 draw.
That’s it. In the history of the matches, the best a team has ever finished after getting wiped out 4-0 is a draw to lose the Cup. On the bright side, the U.S. only trails by two points with 20 matches still to come. This thing is far from over.
But history is no longer on their side.