Europe field the same combos that triumphed 4-0
Back the hosts to win Saturday's foursomes 3-1 @ 7/24.50
Europe are just [1/5] to lift the trophy
Ryder Cups rarely disappoint but day one at Marco Simone was one of the very best on memory.
Well, it was if you were a European. A clean sweep of the morning foursomes for the first time in history secured a 4-0 lead and Luke Donald's men extended that to 6.5-1.5 in the afternoon after somehow edging the fourballs 2.5-1.5 thanks to a trio of highlight-reel moments at 18.
Brilliant putts from Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm secured halves in the top two matches before Justin Rose nailed a clutch eight-footer to ensure the Americans went the entire day without winning a single match, another record.
Donald now finds himself in a dream position: Europe have a huge lead, all 12 of his team have tasted action and everyone has at least half a point on the board.
Going into this second wave of foursomes on Saturday, Europe have been slashed to 1/51.20to lift the trophy, with the USA 11/26.50and the Tie 16/117.00.
06:35: McIlroy/Fleetwood v Thomas/Spieth
On the one hand, it took a dramatic 25-foot putt from Viktor Hovland to stop Thomas and Spieth winning their Friday fourballs after, to much wailing from American fans, they'd been sat in the morning.
And yet, Spieth was hitting it all over the place at the finish and, whisper it, did Thomas actually play that well? JT was only even par over the last six holes and stats from datagolf had him losing 1.16 strokes overall on the day, his putting performance the third worst of the 16 players on show.
McIlroy wasn't great either to be honest as he rode Matt Fitzpatrick's back in their fourballs win over Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele but Rory did impress alongside Fleetwood in their 2&1 foursomes win over Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay so it's no surprise that Donald is sending them out again.
The errant shots from Spieth and Thomas will be far more exposed in this format and although both can produce moments of magic, Europe look the more solid pair. Expect more blue on the board.
Verdict: Europe 8/111.73
06:50: Hovland/Aberg v Scheffler/Koepka
Hovland and Aberg did the business in Match 2 on the opening day foursomes, taking down Max Homa and Brian Harman 4&3, so again it makes sense that Donald sticks to the winning formula.
Norwegian Hovland set the tone for day one with a chip-in birdie on his very first hole of the day and then produced a sensational putt for a half point at 18 late in the afternoon fourballs to give us a sense that, as many predicted, he's going to be one of the stars of the week.
Scheffler played some strong golf in the afternoon alongside Koepka and even registered positive strokes gained figures with the putter. Sam Burns clearly hampered the World No.1 in their 4&3 morning loss to Rahm and Hatton and Koepka should offer more help although perhaps not enough.
Aberg will surely only come on stronger after his winning debut and I'll back the Scandies to record their second win together.
Verdict: Europe 5/42.25
07:05: Lowry/Straka v Homa/Harman
And it's more of the same again for Europe in the third match as Donald keeps faith with Lowry and Straka, who took down Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa 2&1 from this slot on day one.
That said, it was a contest relatively low in quality and the Euros were only 1-under for the 17 holes they played. Still, both benefitted from a rest after sitting out the fourballs and is anyone more excited this week than Lowry, who could be seen bounding down the fairway when Hovland holed his birdie putt at 18!
Homa has had his moments and holed a few impressive putts but he missed the one that counted on 18 to allow Justin Rose and Bob MacIntyre to escape with a point in the afternoon fourballs. Earlier, Harman was average alongside Homa in their 4&3 foursomes loss to Hovland and Aberg, most notably so with his chief weapon: the putter.
This is the one I'm not so sure about but might just give the Americans the nod as surely they have to win a match at some point.... don't they?
Verdict: USA 11/102.11
07:20: Rahm/Hatton v Cantlay/Schauffele
Donald completes his full house of identical foursomes pairings by again teaming Rahm and Hatton, 4&3 winners over Scheffler and Burns on day one, the only difference being they head out last instead of first.
Rahm's rather surprising low-key reaction to his sensational eagle putt smashing into the cup in Friday afternoon's fourballs suggests to me he's making a conscious effort to preserve energy, with Donald thinking of using him for all five matches.
His tee-to-green play was pretty astonishing on day one (he's gained +8.64 strokes TTG across his two matches according to datagolf, way clear of anyone else) and Hatton has been solid enough, if lacking some inspiration.
Schauffele and Cantlay's aura in this format vanished on day one in their defeat to McIlroy and Fleetwood and the former is now 0-2 after losing his fourballs alongside Morikawa. I'm expecting that to sink to 0-3 after this.
Verdict: Europe 11/102.11
Poor preparation. Illness in the camp. Inspired opponents. This is looking grim for Zach Johnson and his team and I expect it to get even worse after Saturday's foursomes.
Donald's idea to play the foursomes first on day one proved a smart one and the 4-0 sweep was fully deserved.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Americans found something in the fourballs and also won Sunday's singles but, by then, Team Europe could be out of sight.
I'll go for a 3-1 scoreline here at 7/24.50, a result which would extend their lead to a mighty 9.5-2.5 and needing just five points from the remaining 16 to take victory.