ROME — It wasn’t until 2:01 p.m. local time that the U.S. Ryder Cup team gained its first faint glimmer of hope. Justin Thomas holed a nine-footer for birdie, and America had its first lead of the day. Yep, that’s right. Five hours and 26 minutes after the 44th Ryder Cup had begun, there finally appeared some red on the scoreboard.

The fog of a blue morning was lifted. At least for a little while. And that it was Thomas who fought to give the Americans a ray of hope seemed somewhat poetic. There were questions about whether or not the two-time PGA champion should even be at Marco Simone. It was a good thing he was.

With his favorite running mate Jordan Spieth struggling down the stretch, it was left to Thomas to play two-on-one golf over the final five holes. The Americans were 2 up standing on the 14th tee, and Thomas grinded to hold on for dear life to gain a tie against Viktor Hovland and Tyrell Hatton.

U.S. captain Zach Johnson needed more from his all-star pairing, which has never lost together in four-ball. They were supposed to set a tone to change the complexion of the matches after the Americans lost all four morning foursomes games to leave themselves in an awful predicament.

“It’s very early, so there’s no reason to panic,” vice-captain Steve Stricker said as he followed the U.S. pair. “But, yeah, this is kind of a big match for us.”

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