September 28, 2018 / 2:43 PM / in 17 days

Luck and grit propel Finau to winning Ryder Cup debut

PARIS (Reuters) - Tony Finau rode a lucky break to make a winning Ryder Cup debut at Le Golf National on Friday, as he and partner Brooks Koepka completed a superb comeback to give the visitors an invaluable point in the first match.

Sep 28, 2018; Paris, FRA; United States golfer Tony Finau plays his shot from the 18th tee during the Ryder Cup Friday morning matches at Le Golf National. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Finau’s tee shot at the par-three 16th caromed off a wooden bulkhead surrounding a greenside lake.

The ball could have bounced anywhere, but took a fortunate hop forward over the water to end a couple of feet from the hole.

The subsequent birdie brought Finau and partner Koepka back to even, and they subsequently won the last for a 1-up victory over European guns Justin Rose and Jon Rahm.

The team winning the first match has gone on to claim the Cup in 12 of the past 19 Ryder Cups.

Finau was first to acknowledge his luck on 16, but also spoke of his and Koepka’s never-say-die spirit in a match in which they were two down with six holes left.

“I needed the break again, just when I saw the ball in the air, I knew it needed to get up,” Finau said.

“I was kind of wishing for that in the air, and I got lucky. Sometimes the ball rolls your way and sometimes it doesn’t.

“But fortunately for us, that was a huge turning point in our match. I was able to brush that one in and get our match all-square.

“And honestly, the momentum was on our side ... and we were able to stretch that match out, and then we played incredible golf on 18 to win the match.”

Earlier, Finau, a wild card pick for the U.S. team, had the honour of hitting the first tee shot of golf’s premier team competition.

Players often speak of feeling the most pressure in their golfing lives at that moment, and Finau was no exception as he took centre stage in front of 7000 fans.

“First tee shot was not like anything I’ve been involved in before,” he said.

“It was like a feeling of a football game back in the States, an NFL football game, and I’m in the middle of the field and I have to hit a tee shot; I have to make a golf swing with all that type of adrenaline.

“It was incredible. Even though the crowd is a European crowd and we’re on European soil, just to be in that atmosphere, it’s electric.

“It’s so hard to explain, just being there, knowing that all eyes are on you, it’s a cool thing. I really enjoyed it, and I thought I hit a pretty good one. The ball just kept rolling and almost went in the water. Luckily it didn’t.”

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Larry King

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