Ryder Cup: Darren Clarke insists ‘It’s still game on’
European captain has top-loaded singles in a bid to overturn three point deficit on Sunday
Darren Clarke will send Rory McIlroy out in the opening singles match as Europe look to overturn a three point deficit. Photogrpah: AP
Europe’s players believe they can still claim an unprecedented fourth straight Ryder Cup victory, despite trailing by three points heading into Sunday’s singles.
Rory McIlroy’s third victory alongside rookie Thomas Pieters had seen Darren Clarke’s side level the scores on Saturday afternoon at Hazeltine, only for the home side to win the three remaining fourball matches.
Europe came from 10-6 down to win at Medinah in 2012, although they won the last two fourballs on that occasion after Ian Poulter famously birdied the last five holes alongside McIlroy in a victory over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.
“It’s still game on,” said Clarke, who was a vice-captain to Jose Maria Olazabal four years ago. “There’s 12 points to play for. We are currently three points behind.
“Yes, they were disappointed when we came off the golf course, as naturally they should be, I would expect them to be that way.
“But we sat and had a team meeting afterwards with the players and the caddies, and some of the players spoke up, and we had a really good, strong meeting afterwards. And those guys fully believe that they have the talent and the desire to put a result in tomorrow.”
Clarke had little option but to “top-load” his singles order with his strongest players, with Rory McIlroy out first and unsurprisingly coming up against American talisman Patrick Reed.
“I’ve got five guys that have played every match so far,” Clarke added. “I’ve spoken to every one of them about the possibility of having to do so, and every one of them said, by all means, whatever you ask of me, they will do.”
McIlroy in particular has expended an enormous amount of emotional energy in coping with the hostile crowd, but Clarke added: “I appreciate what you’ve said about Rory going out there and playing as charged up as he is, (but) he’s a young man and he’s playing some of the best golf of his life right now.
“I know for a fact that he can’t wait to get on that tee tomorrow morning, so I have no worries about Rory.”