KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia demonstrated his Ryder Cup prowess yet again on a difficult opening morning for Europe at Whistling Straits as the Spaniard equalled the record for match wins in the competition.
In tandem with world number one and fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm, the 41-year-old revelled in the partisan atmosphere created by the American fans alongside Lake Michigan, playing beautifully to beat Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth on Friday.
It was just as well that Garcia and Rahm were on form as their 3&1 victory was the only bright spot for Europe in the opening foursomes as the U.S. moved 3-1 ahead.
Garcia, who drained a superb long birdie on the 15th to put Europe three up with three to play, now has 23 match wins in the competition, level with Englishman Nick Faldo.
The Spaniard also extended his overall points tally in the biennial event to 26.5 -- more than any other European player.
Rahm was quick to pay tribute to his partner Garcia who is taking part in his 10th Ryder Cup.
"My first thought was that we fire in the first match, especially with the Spanish legacy in the Ryder Cup and Sergio being the European with the most amount of points ever," Rahm told reporters.
"A little bit of pressure to play with somebody like that, but at the same time, with his ball-striking, I knew my job was going to be to make some putts and that's exactly what I did early on, and we kept the vibe going."
Garcia, who was rested for the later fourballs, said every point was vital.
"I think that any point that you can bring to the team, it's always welcome and it's always exciting," Garcia, who made his debut in 1999, said. "I was just very honoured, even though this is my 10th Ryder Cup, I was very honoured to play with Jon."
Garcia and Rahm clinched victory on the 17th green despite a miraculous shot from Spieth, who somehow got the ball close to the flag despite having to chip from a near vertical bank below the green after a poor Thomas tee shot.
Thomas then missed the putt to hand victory to the European duo, but Garcia marvelled at Spieth's wonder stroke.
"You saw me. I was clapping. I was truly afraid for him to hurt himself because of those wood logs that are there, and it was very close to the wall," Garcia said.
"So I was hoping that he wouldn't hurt himself, but he hit an unbelievable shot. I didn't think there was a chance he could get it on the green."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)