SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Justin Thomas embodied the energy of the moment. He sank an eagle putt, lifted his hands to his side, unleashed a furious fist pump, and smacked palms with teammate Patrick Cantlay, tugging him in for a shoulder bump. The raw emotion only amplified the eruption from the gallery at Whistling Straits.
It wasn't a winning putt — it helped secure a tie in a Ryder Cup match that once appeared hopelessly lost — yet it proved to be a signature moment Friday in a lopsided opening day in favor of Team USA.
Although Europe has won four of the last five Ryder Cup tournaments, this was a taste of sweet redemption for the Americans, who went 3-1 in the morning session, and picked up three more points in the afternoon with two wins and two ties. The Europeans, cheered on by maybe 5% of the crowd, ended the first day in a 6-2 hole.
The day was as much a patriotic coronation as a competition, with the crowd of more than 3,000 in the grandstands surrounding the first tee breaking into a spontaneous rendition of the national anthem as the sun rose over Lake Michigan. The gallery included NBA legends Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Some fans wore rubber eagle masks, others had oversized red-white-and-blue top hats, still others donned American flag pajama pants.
"Man, it was awesome," said Harris English, who along with Tony Finau cruised to the most decisive victory of the afternoon matches. "The atmosphere was incredible. The adrenaline was pumping like no other. So it was easy to get up for playing golf today."
Half of the 12 Team USA members are playing in their first Ryder Cup, and each collected at least one victory or a tie: English, Cantlay, Daniel Berger, Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele.
Cantlay and Schauffele won in the alternating-shot format in the morning, and Schauffele paired with Dustin Johnson for a four-ball win in the afternoon.
Morikawa, who is ranked third in the world, won with Johnson in the morning session. That paired the oldest and youngest U.S. players — Johnson is 37, Morikawa is 24 — and they collected seven birdies in 16 holes.
"Dustin has been one of the best players in the world for a long time," Morikawa said. "And to have someone like that, to have my first match in the Ryder Cup, I trust him a lot and it felt very comfortable."
Since only four holes are in play at any given time, the crowds were 10 deep or more in places, with fans taking advantage of the undulating topography, which emulates the traditional seaside links courses of England and Ireland. The weather changed constantly, from gusting winds to balmy sunshine to sprinkling rain. The players were in a continuous state of pulling on and off layers of clothing.