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It’s advantage Europe heading into the weekend at the 2023 Ryder Cup – and a seriously big advantage at that.

Luke Donald’s men whitewashed their American opponents 4-0 in the morning’s opening session at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club near Rome.

Zach Johnson’s side rallied in the fourballs but an extraordinary late fightback from Europe in the setting sun saw them take the session 2.5-1.5 to lead the match by a record-equalling 6.5-1.5 scoreline at the end of day one.

Indeed, this is only the third time in the history of the match that a team has led by five points at the end of the first day.

The USA did it first – versus Great Britain & Ireland – in 1975, before Europe followed suit in 2004. Each went on to win by huge margins, 21-11 and 18.5-9.5 respectively.

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Of perhaps more immediate concern to Johnson, however, will be the fact that his side failed to register a single full point on the opening day, their contribution to the scoreboard coming courtesy of three half-points.

What does it all mean?

Pretty simple: the US will have to scale Everest over the next two days if they are to end their 30-year winless drought on European soil.

Donald, however, is refusing to get carried away.

“It’s an unbelievable start and an historic day,” said the Englishman. “But we want it to be an historic week, so the job is certainly not done. We will all celebrate an amazing day, but we’ll be back tomorrow morning with the goal of trying to win tomorrow morning’s session.

“We’ll be getting our guys focused to be back in the saddle, so to speak.

“I’m really focused on going out tomorrow morning and showing another strong session and trying to win that session.

“That will be our only goal for tomorrow morning, but this is a great start, and we want to build on that lead.”

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Donald’s opposite number Johnson, meantime, revealed that his several members of his team have been battling an unspecified illnes..

“The bottom line is there’s been some unforeseen things that we’ve had to navigate around, which is really unfortunate, in the sense of health,” said the US skipper. “It’s not an excuse, because we have depth, but I’ll just say, I’m grateful we have a team doctor.” understands that Rickie Fowler skipped the gala dinner on Wednesday night due to illness, although he did attend the team photocall at the Spanish Steps.

Asked to elaborate, Johnson said: “Internally, it’s kind of passed around a little bit, caddies, players. It is what it is. But it’s nothing more than that.

“Guys are fighting and playing regardless. It’s not anything that’s kind of weighed us down because of the depth we have and because of the many options we think we have.”

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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