By Mark Lamport-Stokes
CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - England's Justin Rose struck the first shot of the 41st Ryder Cup on a chilly Friday, finding the fairway off the tee at the par-four opening hole to launch the morning's foursomes matches before the U.S. took early control.
Olympic champion Rose partnered British Open winner Henrik Stenson for holders Europe in the alternate-shot format while Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed led off for the United States in a mouth-watering matchup for the first of four encounters.
Rose, Stenson and Spieth were all dressed warmly in the crisp, overcast conditions but the burly Reed was in short sleeves when he teed off first for the U.S. and split the fairway.
All four players were given a rousing welcome by the fans packed around the first tee, chants of "Ole, Ole, Ole" and "USA, USA, USA" echoing across the course at Hazeltine National.
In a moving tribute to Arnold Palmer, who died on Sunday aged 87, the late golfing great's Ryder Cup bag was placed on the first tee box in clear sight of the players and the fans.
Rose and Stenson, who went 3-0 when paired together at Gleneagles two years ago, were sent off first by captain Darren Clarke in a bid to give holders Europe a fast start.
However, they soon found themselves two down after Spieth sank a 12-footer to birdie the par-four second and followed with a five-footer at the par-five third.
In the second match out, fan favorites Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler were all square with Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Englishman Andy Sullivan after two holes while Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson were level with Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Germany's Martin Kaymer after one.
In the bottom match, English veteran Lee Westwood and long-hitting Belgian Thomas Pieters were one down to U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar after one hole.
Europe have won three consecutive Ryder Cups through a mixture of shrewd captaincy, consistently good team chemistry, often stellar play and an uncanny knack of sinking key putts at crucial moments.
The United States, who have a proud record on American soil with just four losses since the matches began in 1927, are bidding to end a run of eight losses in the past 10 editions.
Europe won the trophy for a third successive time with a crushing victory by 16-1/2 points to 11-1/2 at Gleneagles in 2014.
(Reporting by Tony Jimenez)