Europe will have to create history to retain the Ryder Cup after being whitewashed in the opening session, but a brilliant fightback kept their hopes firmly alive at Hazeltine.
Darren Clarke’s side were shell-shocked after losing all four foursomes matches in front of a raucous home crowd, with the star pairing of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson tamely surrendering their unbeaten record to Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
However, Open champion Stenson and Olympic gold medallist Rose led by example in the afternoon fourballs against the same opposition, storming to a 5&4 win to get the first European point on the board.
The all-Spanish pairing of veteran Sergio Garcia and rookie Rafa Cabrera Bello then beat Ryan Moore and JB Holmes 3&2, before an off-form Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett lost 5&4 to Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka.
But Rory McIlroy and an inspired Thomas Pieters ended a rollercoaster day on a high note by beating US Open champion Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar 3&2 to ensure Europe trailed just 5-3 overnight.
McIlroy sealed the win with a stunning eagle on the 16th, but told Sky Sports: “I lost myself a little in the middle and thankfully redeemed myself at the end but all the credit has to go to this guy (Pieters).
“He has been incredible all day. He is a stud.”
European captain Clarke added: “I’m massively proud of them to do what we did. We were bitterly disappointed at lunchtime, we just did not play the way we know they can and America did.
“And then the guys come out this afternoon to put in a performance like that, the performance was scintillating.”
The United States have never lost a Ryder Cup on home soil after winning the opening session and, perhaps fittingly, the last time they won the first series 4-0 was when the late Arnold Palmer was captain in 1975, albeit against Great Britain and Ireland.
Palmer’s bag from that contest had been displayed on the first tee in tribute to the seven-time major winner after his death on Sunday and appeared to inspire a flying start from the home side.
Three birdies in the first seven holes put Spieth and Reed in command of the opening match and their European opponents managed just a solitary birdie before Reed sealed a 3&2 win on the 16th.
Lee Westwood and Pieters were in trouble from the moment they bogeyed the first two holes and were five down after eight, their only win of the day coming with a par on the ninth after the Americans three-putted from long range.
Kaymer and Garcia were then made to pay for missing good chances to punish a nervous start from Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson, who birdied the 13th, 14th and 16th - and won the 15th with a par - to come back from one down after 11 holes.
But arguably the biggest blow came as McIlroy and Andy Sullivan twice squandered a two-hole lead in match two, the second coming after birdies on the 13th and 14th.
The European pair bogeyed the 15th and lost the next to a birdie before Sullivan, who had been superb otherwise, found water with his tee shot on the 17th.
Needing something special in the fourballs, Clarke left Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick on the sidelines and gave debuts to Cabrera Bello and Willett, whose form appeared to have been affected by the furore over the anti-American sentiments his brother Pete had expressed in a magazine article.
Heckled by some sections of the crowd throughout, Willett holed long birdie putts on the first and ninth but got little help from partner Kaymer as the pair suffered a heavy defeat.
In contrast, Cabrera Bello enjoyed a dream debut with birdies on the first and sixth and a crucial par save on the seventh after he and Garcia both found water off the tee.
Garcia then chipped in for a birdie on the ninth and when Holmes and Moore finally registered their first birdies of the day on the 10th and 11th, Garcia simply followed them in for a half before another birdie on the 16th ended some brave American resistance.
Pieters was similarly inspired, perhaps by memories of the performance of fellow Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts at Medinah in 2012, most crucially making a birdie on the 13th to move four up after McIlroy had found the water.
And after losing the 14th to a par and the 15th to a birdie, McIlroy ended the match in stunning fashion with a brilliant eagle on the par-five 16th before bowing to the crowd.
The tone had crucially been set by Rose and Stenson, who lost the first hole to a Reed birdie but then carded nine of their own in the next 13, Stenson firing three in a row from the sixth and coming agonisingly close to a hole-in-one on the eighth.
Rose crucially matched Spieth’s birdie on the 11th and when the Americans made a mess of the next, the stage was set for Rose to seal the win with another birdie on the 14th.
HOW THE FIRST DAY OF THE RYDER CUP UNFOLDED
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson lost 3&2 to Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth
Something had to give in a match featuring two pairs who were unbeaten at Gleneagles in 2014, and it was the home side who struck the first blow with Spieth holing birdie putts on the second and third. In contrast, Rose and Stenson were struggling to find the right line on the greens and Reed’s birdie from five feet on the seventh took the Americans into a dominant position. A par on the ninth was enough for Europe’s first win of the day, although not until Stenson was made to hole from inside two feet. That was as close as Europe’s top pair was able to get however and a birdie on the 16th from Reed sealed the win. The same pairs were then announced to open the afternoon fourballs.
Europe 0 United States 1
Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar beat Lee Westwood and Thomas Pieters 5&4
Veteran Lee Westwood pushed his drive into a bunker off the first tee and things went downhill from there as rookie Pieters missed the green as they went one down. When the usually reliable Westwood drove into the water at the seventh on the way to a double-bogey six Europe were four down and a birdie for Johnson at the next put the USA into a commanding position. Kuchar’s four-foot par putt lipped out to hand a shot back at the ninth but an outward nine of 40 for Europe did not offer much hope of a comeback and they suffered the ignominy of a 5&4 defeat.
Europe 0 United States 2
Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson beat Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer 4&2
Johnson bogeyed the second to put Europe one up, a lead they held on to for nine holes - even when Garcia sprayed a shot 90 yards right on the par-five 11th, Kaymer chipped to eight feet only for his partner to miss the birdie putt having left one in the jaws on the previous green. Kaymer’s missed par putt at the 12th brought the match back to all square. Johnson hit it close at the next for Walker to put the USA ahead for the first time and they won the next four holes in a remarkable finish.
Europe 0 USA 3
Andy Sullivan and Rory McIlroy lost 1dn to Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler
The European pair were gifted an early two-hole lead when their opponents bogeyed the fourth and made a mess of the sixth, Mickelson driving out of bounds and Fowler hitting his drive up against the same boundary fence. However, they repaid the favour on the next when McIlroy’s approach hit a tree and dropped into a water hazard and a bogey on the eighth meant the match was tied. Birdies on the 13th and 14th took the visitors two ahead once more, but they bogeyed the 15th and lost the next to a birdie before Sullivan found water off the tee on the 17th.
Europe 0 USA 4
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson beat Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed 5&4
Despite making just one birdie in their foursomes defeat to the same pair, European captain Darren Clarke kept faith with his top pair in the fourballs and was rewarded with some brilliant golf and a vital victory. Stenson reproduced the form which brought him the Open title in July with three birdies in a row from the sixth, the 40-year-old Swede coming agonisingly close to a hole-in-one on the eighth. Rose crucially matched Spieth’s birdie on the 11th before the American pair made a mess of the 12th and a Rose birdie on the 14th sealed a convincing win.
Europe 1 USA 4
Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka beat Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett 5&4
Willett, booed on the first tee after the controversial anti-American comments by his brother, responded in superb fashion by holing a long birdie putt on the opening hole for a half with their opponents already in close, but the European pair were soon four down after eight holes. Willett holed another lengthy birdie putt at the ninth to get one back but two out-of-form players could not stem the bleeding and a heavy defeat was never in doubt.
Europe 1 USA 5
Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello beat JB Holmes and Ryan Moore 3&2
Cabrera Bello started his Ryder Cup career with a birdie on the first and never looked back as he dovetailed superbly with fellow Spaniard Garcia, who almost holed his approach to the fifth. Both players found water off the tee on the seventh, but Cabrera Bello saved par and then saw Garcia chip in for birdie on the ninth to reach the turn four up. The American pair had failed to find a single birdie on the front nine and when they finally did on the 10th and 11th, Garcia simply followed them in. Further birdies from Moore on the 14th and 15th set up a nervy finish, but Garcia’s birdie on the par-five 16th sealed the win.
Europe 2 USA 5
Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters beat Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar 3&2
Unbelievably Europe won the opening hole with a par only for Johnson to hit back with a birdie at the next. Pieters birdied the par-three fourth and seventh, with McIlroy doing similarly at the fifth and sixth, to put them four up. Johnson got one back at the 11th but Pieters - with McIlroy in the water and out of the 13th hole - sank an incredibly fast putt to restore their advantage. They lost the next to a Kuchar par and the 15th to a Johnson birdie to set nerves jangling, but the US Open champion dumped his approach into the water at the par-five 16th while McIlroy hit a brilliant second to 20 feet for an eagle to win the match.
Europe 3 USA 5