By Jack Bantock, CNN
Scheffler and playing partner Brooks Koepka were dismantled 9&7 (nine up with 7 holes to play) by Scandinavian duo Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg, the largest margin of victory for an 18-hole match, foursomes or otherwise, in the 44-edition history of the tournament.
It helped Europe extend their imperious start at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome, as a 3-1 overall victory in the morning foursomes session powered them into a 9.5 – 2.5 lead. Captain Luke Donald’s team need just five points from the 16 more available to lift the trophy.
On paper, Scheffler and Koepka looked a pairing more than capable of finally securing a first win for US captain Zach Johnson. Both major champions, Koepka boasting five, the experienced Americans were facing a pair without a major crown between them and in Aberg, a 23-year-old Ryder Cup rookie who turned pro less than 100 days ago.
Yet Norwegian world No. 4 Hovland and the Swedish rookie had dazzled in a comprehensive 4&3 victory over Max Homa and Open championship winner Brian Harman on Friday morning, and the pair took their game to another level against Scheffler and Koepka.
The Europeans won nine of 11 holes to make historically short work of their opposition, birdieing the final six in a row. It eclipses the previous 18-hole Ryder Cup winning margin record of 8&7, both inflicted by Americans in singles matches; Tom Kite over Howard Clark in 1989, and Fred Couples over Ian Woosnam in 1997.
A tearful Scheffler – who contributed two points in Team USA’s emphatic 19-9 triumph at Whistling Straits in 2021 – was consoled by wife Meredith. The 27-year-old was subsequently not picked by Johnson for the afternoon fourball session.
It marked another bitter blow for Scheffler and Koepka after the pair had seen what would have been a first US point slip away from them on Friday afternoon, Jon Rahm closing with two eagles across his last three holes to snatch a tie.
Rahm subsequently drew the ire of Koepka, who accused the Spaniard of acting “like a child” during the match.
‘I don’t think we could have done a whole lot better’
Scheffler’s agony contrasted the ecstasy etched across the faces of Hovland and Aberg, whose stunning showings have rapidly seen them become crowd favorites in Rome.
They join forces again, against Sam Burns and Collin Morikawa in the fourballs, with the aim of making it a hat trick together.
“I don’t think we could have done a whole lot better,” Hovland told reporters.
“It’s nice to kind of speak our own language and we understand each other. Obviously same humour, same culture. He’s a stud. He doesn’t miss a shot, so it’s easy when I’m playing well and he’s playing well and we are just feeding off of each other.
“I think we could have met a lot of guys and we would have been tough to beat today. Obviously Scottie and Brooks weren’t on top of their game today and that’s how 9&7 came to be.”
Aberg added: “It’s an unbelievable time for me to be here to play alongside one of the best players in the world in Viktor and to be playing against other world-class players.
“Today was quite surreal at times. Almost pinch myself at times but obviously super happy with it and looking forward to this afternoon.”
‘Fleetwood Mac’ perform again
Europe’s own “Fleetwood Mac” found their tune again as Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood defeated Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.
The duo had dovetailed to see off Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay 2&1 on Friday morning, and won by the same scoreline against an American pair who had arrived in Rome with an 8-2 record as a team at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
“Yesterday was an amazing day and we wanted to enjoy it because it’s not very often you go out on a full day in a Ryder Cup and don’t lose a full point,” McIlroy told reporters.
“We enjoyed last night but at the same time we knew the Americans were going to be hurting a bit and they obviously want to get off to a fast start this morning, and our objective is to just not let them do that.”
Rahm’s impressive tournament continued as he and Tyrrell Hatton defeated Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele 2&1, but there was some solace for Team USA on Saturday morning as Max Homa and Brian Harman at last registered the visitors’ first win of the week.
The pair beat Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka 4&2 in what Homa hoped would serve as a “spark” for teammates.
“We know how good we are,” Homa told reporters.
“Everybody knows how good the man to my left is. We obviously are in a big hole but we have the right guys to dig ourselves out of it.”
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