MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) – The Americans are turning the Ryder Cup into a rout.
Sparked by Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson’s record-tying performance, the U.S. won all but one match Saturday morning to take a commanding 8-4 lead over Europe.
The largest comeback in Ryder Cup history was at Brookline in 1999, when the U.S. erased a 10-6 deficit on the final day.
“I keep telling the guys we’re not even halfway over with this tournament so far,” captain Davis Love III said. “There’s a lot of points left, let’s keep doing what we’re doing. They’re buying into it, they’re playing great.”
This is the largest lead the Americans have had after three sessions since the Ryder Cup expanded to include players from continental Europe in 1979. They need 14 1/2 points to win the Ryder Cup.
Europe avoided a sweep thanks to – who else? – Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, who beat Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 1 up. Poulter has Europe’s best winning percentage in Ryder Cup play with a 10-3-0 record, and there was no way he was going to let the Americans take a point from his match.
“It was absolutely key,” Poulter said. “Jose put us out No. 1 for a reason, and that’s to get the point and put the point up on the board.”
Just as they did Friday, the Americans got their spark from Bradley. He’s got more energy and enthusiasm than a 4-year-old hopped up on Pixie Stix, sprinting out to the first hole a half-hour before his tee time to encourage fans to get louder and rowdier. Finally satisfied, he grinned and sprinted back to the locker room.
But it wasn’t long before he and Lefty had the crowd worked up again. The two are on such a roll they didn’t even have to putt to win their first two holes against Lee Westwood and Luke Donald on Saturday.
The Europeans conceded No. 1 when Mickelson put his second within 2 feet of the pin, and they gave the Americans No. 2 after Westwood put his tee shot in the water and missed the bogey putt.
Mickelson’s gorgeous wedge set up Bradley with an 8-footer for birdie on No. 4, and he knocked it in easily, letting out a roar when the ball dropped into the cup. The Americans went 6 up when Donald saw another putt lip out on 10, and the Europeans may as well have conceded then, the result was so inevitable.
Sure enough, two holes later, Mickelson played a perfect wedge from the rough, hitting the green about 20 feet left of the pin and trickling down a slope to within a foot of the cup.
“Phil is a good partner to Keegan,” Donald said. “He’s obviously been a rock star this week, and they did nothing wrong.”
Their 7-and-6 win, in fact, matched the mark for most lopsided score in an 18-hole team match. Two other teams have won 7 and 6, both foursomes, with Paul Azinger and Mark O’Meara in 1991 the last to do it.
The victory improved Bradley to 3-0, the best Ryder Cup start for a rookie since the guy he was playing with in 1995. And it handed Donald his second straight loss in foursomes after going unbeaten in his first six matches.
The U.S. got another big boost in the final match, Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker’s 1-up victory over Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
The Northern Irish duo are considered Europe’s top team, the No. 1 player in the world and the guy who delivered the winning point for Europe two years ago at Celtic Manor. But they’ve looked almost ordinary since Furyk and Snedeker forced them to grind out a victory in Friday’s foursomes, and they couldn’t overcome their slow start Saturday.
“We were just parring the place to death, which is not good enough in this format,” McDowell said. “We just couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole. Rory had a few putts in particular that burned some edges, and we just couldn’t get any momentum going.”
Take the last three holes. A nice iron by McDowell gave McIlroy an easy birdie putt on 16, and he made it to pare Furyk and Snedeker’s lead to 1 up. But McIlroy followed that with a miss on a 15-footer that would have evened the match on 17.
McIlroy’s monster drive on 18 put the Europeans in good position to scratch out a halve – especially after Snedeker went in a bunker off the tee. But McDowell flew the green on the second shot, leaving McIlroy with a long putt from the fringe. He nearly made it, but his line was about a half-inch too far to the right and McIlroy groaned as he watched it roll on by.
When Snedeker got a 25-footer to about a foot, the Europeans conceded.
“We are in a hole,” McDowell said. “These guys, there’s blood in the water and they’re up for it. They’ve got a head of steam up and we’ve got to try and stop it.”