PARIS, Sept 28 (Reuters) - As Ryder Cup debuts go Tommy Fleetwood’s was nothing short of spectacular as he posted two points alongside British Open champion Francesco Molinari at Le Golf National on Friday.
Europe, bidding to reclaim the trophy, ended the day 5-3 ahead with Fleetwood the toast of the team room.
The popular 27-year-old Englishman, one of five rookies in Thomas Bjorn’s side, gelled superbly with the Italian as they stormed back against Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed in the morning fourballs to post a crucial 3&1 victory.
The U.S. had won the first three fourballs matches but when Fleetwood and Molinari pulled a victory out of the fire it was to prove the turning point of an absorbing opening day.
Later they outclassed Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas 5&4 to complete Europe’s first ever 4-0 sweep in the foursomes format.
The four Americans they faced during the opening day’s action boasted a collective total of 19 majors.
Until Friday, Molinari had never won a Ryder Cup point in two previous appearances but the straggly-haired Fleetwood got his tally ticking straight away with some sizzling golf.
“I think we just combine really well,” Molinari, who became the first Italian to win a major when he held off the likes of Spieth and Woods at Carnoustie in July, said of the partnership already being dubbed “Mollywood”.
“He’s played amazing this morning and this afternoon.”
Fleetwood, who finished second at this year’s U.S. Open, thrived in the super-charged atmosphere generated by the thousands of fans who had descended on the sprawling course.
It was his birdie on the fourth that restored Europe’s early lead after Woods had thrown down the gauntlet with a majestic tee shot at the second to level the match.
When Reed chipped in at the 10th to put the U.S. duo two up it looked bleak for Fleetwood and Molinari and Europe.
After Molinari levelled the match with birdies at the 11th and 12th, it was the laid-back Fleetwood who swung it Europe’s way with two magical swings of his putter.
First, from the water’s edge on the 15th, he holed a long birdie putt and then surpassed that effort with a 40-footer at the next to break the American’s resolve.
The roars from the crowd may well have rattled the windows at the nearby Versailles Palace.
Molinari completed the job at the 17th with another birdie.
Taking the momentum into the afternoon, the Anglo-Italian duo demolished Spieth and Thomas — with Fleetwood’s putter again proving a lethal weapon.
His curling putt at the sixth put Europe three up and they were never in any danger of being overhauled. (Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)