SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Things have gone from bad to worse for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Europe won three of four matches in morning fourballs to take an imposing 8-4 lead with afternoon foursomes (four available points) and Sunday singles (12 points) still to come. Starting with the anchor match Friday morning, Europe won eight straight matches before Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas got the U.S. a desperately needed point in the final match Saturday morning. The largest Sunday comeback in Ryder Cup history is four points, and both are remembered for being miraculous (U.S. in 1999 and Europe in 2012), so for U.S. to have a puncher’s chance in Sunday singles, they can’t fall farther behind this afternoon in alternate shot — a format they lost 4-0 on Friday. Here’s how the U.S. dug themselves an even deeper hole Saturday morning.
MATCH 1: Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy def. Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau 2 and 1
Koepka and Finau flipped their match late on Friday and appeared ready to turn the trick again Saturday. The 5th hole was indicative of the way the opening 13 holes went for the U.S. Finau holed a sensational greenside bunker shot for birdie — the second time he’s holed a shot from off the green in two matches. But Rory answered him with a long birdie putt of his own.
Rory slept-walked through a birdie-less round Friday. Saturday? He rang up four birds in the first eight holes. Rory is back to being peak Rory. But Europe did get a little complacent late, allowing a 4-up lead to drift to 2 up, before Sergio closed it out with a 20-footer down the hill on 17. Garcia was a controversial captain’s pick, but he’s now 2-0. He’s proven he belongs.
MATCH 2: Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton def. Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson 3 and 2
Buzzsaw alert! Casey birdied five of the first six holes to stake Europe to a 2-up lead.
Hatton kicked in three birdies of his own from there, while it took DJ 9 holes to make his first bird. This U.S. pairing ham-and-egged it nicely on Friday morning, but Saturday they ran into the best duo on the course: Casey and Hatton combined to go 10 under in 16 holes. Fowler and DJ were six under — good, but not nearly good enough.
MATCH 3: Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari def. Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods 4 and 3
What’s left to say? Reed got his wish to play with his childhood hero, but for the second straight day he just didn’t have it. To cite one (of many) loose shots, his tee ball on the 7th hole was so far O.B. it defies description.
Here’s some more analysis.
Absolutely nothing was happening for the U.S. until Woods poured in a 30-footer on 7 for the team’s first birdie of the day. Reed made his first birdie on 9 to halve that hole and unleashed his first “crowd shush” of the day.
But that felt a little like an NFL wide receiver celebrating a first down when his team is down 20. Woods did kick in 3-footer on 10 to square the match, but Molinari answered with back-to-back…to BACK birdies — and more emotion than he showed while winning the British Open — to put Europe 3 up.
When Reed unleashed another foul ball off the tee on 13, he unleashed some foul language to go with it. Captain American was a shell of his usual self. Woods looked tired and stiff. Hard to believe a Reed-Woods pairing turned out to be so miserable. This marked Europe’s eighth straight match victory — from 3-o on Friday morning to 8-3 at this point.
MATCH 4: Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas def. Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm 2 and 1
The U.S. grabbed an early edge after Spieth and JT birdied 2 and 3, but on 7 Europe grabbed the lead after Poulter canned his third birdie of the morning, punctuated by one of these:
Things heated up on the back nine. Spieth dropped a birdie on 11. JT was next. Then Rahm. Then Rahm and Thomas traded 4s on the par-5th 14th, and both took the opportunity to egg on the crowd.
Thomas and Poulter traded birdies on 16, and JT finally closed it out with an 8-footer on 17, and an emphatic celebration. Thomas and Spieth have been the best U.S. tandem so far. No surprise they’ll anchor the Saturday afternoon session. The U.S. needs every point they can get.
Here are the matches for the Saturday foursomes:
- Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson vs. Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka
- Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren vs. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson
- Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood vs. Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau
- Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy vs. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas