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‘We actually played quite well’: McIlroy, Poulter impressed by U.S. blowout

KOHLER, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 24: Ian Poulter of England and team Europe (L) and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and team Europe walk across the course during Friday Morning Foursome Matches of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 24, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

HAVEN, Wis. — The sun was out. The wind was down. And a star-spangled horde of American fans streamed from Whistling Straits’ back nine toward its first tee, recharging for the Ryder Cup afternoon session.

Ian Poulter stood overlooking the scene, listening to the “U-S-A” cheers cascading from concession to concession.

“And they’ve only been drinking for an hour!” he exclaimed. “Imagine what it’ll be like this afternoon.”

He was likely off by about four hours, but the point stood: The crowd was loud and only getting louder, jubilant after jumping out to a 3-1 lead in the morning session. Poulter and partner Rory McIlroy had been selected to anchor Team Europe‘s morning wave, but they ran into the American buzzsaw of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, lost the first five holes and ultimately lost 5 and 3.

The Americans made birdie on three of the first five holes, sprinting out to the largest lead of the day. They birdied their final four holes, too. In between, the European team sprinkled in a few birdies of their own. Afterward, they could only shrug their shoulders.

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“Yeah, the start wasn’t great,” McIlroy said. “But I don’t know if anyone could have beat Xander and Patrick today. They played really good, four birdies in a row [to finish]. Geez, yeah, they played great. All you can do is praise them for the way they played.”

Poulter was typically expressive as the match went on, fist-pumping birdie putts at 12 and 13 and looking like he might tear his shirt when his must-make birdie try just missed at 15.

“A shame because we actually played quite well,” he said. “You know, they have played exceptionally good golf in foursomes. It’s not nice to get off to that start, 5-down through five. Not easy to come back, and they finished the match off.”

The American duo said the storied veteran duo was exactly the matchup they wanted.

“We want those kind of matchups,” Cantlay said. “I think I speak for Xander a little bit here, but that’s what it’s all about. We were excited when we saw that pairing, and all the pressure is on them. They’ve seen it all and they are expected to maybe have a little veteran edge, and I was really glad we got that pairing.”

They didn’t fight fire with fire, sticking with stoicism instead. It was plenty effective.

“I think everyone who knows us, especially when we play, we don’t talk a whole lot,” Schauffele explained. “So he’ll walk ahead or I’ll walk ahead and we just kind of give each other looks, and that’s enough to build on momentum. We are similar in that sense and I think that’s very helpful when competing.”

The most surprising thing about the dominance of Cantlay and Schauffele was that they didn’t run it back for the afternoon session. Instead, captain Steve Stricker split them up, sending Cantlay out with Justin Thomas and Schauffele with Dustin Johnson.

Based off their morning, though, it’s a safe bet we’ll see Schauffele-Cantlay out again in Saturday foursomes.

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