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By Richard Lough
PARIS, Sept 28 (Reuters) - World number one Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler put the first point on the Ryder Cup scoreboard on Friday, beating a misfiring Rory McIlroy 4&2 and rookie Thorbjorn Olesen.
McIlroy, who arrived in France in mixed form, look subdued all morning as he struggled to find his groove and failed to score a birdie.
His disappointing start in the fourball contest may cause European captain Thomas Bjorn some concern about the afternoon’s play. McIlroy will team up with Ian Poulter for the foursomes.
Under a gorgeous autumn sun and soft breeze, neither side could establish an early lead at the immaculate Golf National, outside Paris. Fowler on the sixth came close to sinking a chip for eagle and left McIlroy leaning on Olesen to make birdie and halve the hole.
The Europeans drew first blood on the 8th, where a par three was enough for Olesen to win the hole. It was the only hole the Europeans would win.
The Americans responded immediately. On the par five 9th, McIlroy pushed his drive into the rough and Olesen found water. Fowler played a delicate chip from off the green, using the fringe to check his ball’s speed and leave himself just a few inches from the cup to win the hole.
From there, Fowler, ranked 9 in the world, and Johnson turned the screws, scoring another four birdies.
On the 14th, Fowler sank a 40-foot birdie putt after a glorious wood shot from the fairway, turning around what looked a lost cause after he hit his drive into the thick rough.
Three holes down, the Europeans never looked like clawing their way back into the game. A birdie by Johnson on the par 3 16th hole sealed the game for the Americans.
“We knew we were going out in a tough match and would have to play well. We both played great,” Johnson said in a post-match interview.
One statistic the Europeans will now be left battling to defy: Since 1975, the team that has won the first point of the Ryder Cup has gone on to win the event 79 percent of the time.
“The crowds are great, they’re energetic, playing for the home team a bit more but they’re respectful,” Fowler said. “I’m glad we got off to a good start.” (Reporting by Richard Lough, editing by Larry King)