USA require miracle of Medinah proportions to retain Ryder Cup
Rory McIlroy will lead off hunt for the four and a half points required to regain title
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson celebrate during the afternoon foursomes match against Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson were joined by their caddies in a group huddle on the 16th green after securing their foursomes win in offering up a prayer. It seemed appropriate, for if the United States are to pull this one out of the bag, then another miracle – just like the Europeans pulled off at Medinah in 2012 – will be required.
Having carried an 8-4 lead in the afternoon session of foursomes, Europe’s momentum was finally slowed as the Americans – finally – found some fight to share the spoils. It means Europe carry a 10-6 lead into the final day’s play of 12 singles, with Thomas Bjorn’s team needing four and a half points from that final session to regain the Ryder Cup. The USA need eight points to retain it.
“You keep reminding yourself that we had a big lead at Valderrama; we had a big lead at Brookline, and at Valderrama, we won, but only just,” said Bjorn in demonstrating no complacency will be allowed slip into his side’s thoughts.
“At Brookline we lost. At Medinah we were a long way behind and we turned it around. So in history, history will show me and everybody on that team that this is not over. That’s what it’s all about. You go full bore [in the singles]. Get out there and do all the right things, and this is not over till you’ve got the points on the board.”
Yet again, as they have done since the Icelandic thunder clap sent them on their way on Friday morning, Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari led the way with a comprehensive 5&4 win over Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau, while Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson – very much playing up to his “Iceman” moniker with clutch putts on the 16th and 17th – were 2&1 winners over Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.
The flag of defiance was flown by the USA’s power pairing of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, who were 4&3 winners over Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, while Watson and Simpson led from the get-go to beat Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren 3&2.
Only twice in the Ryder Cup history has a team managed to successfully overcome a 10-6 deficit. It happened in the 1999 match in Boston – the so-called “Battle of Brookline” where the USA, inspired by US president George W Bush reading a letter written by William Barret Travis refusing to surrender at the Alamo – and it happened again in 2012, where Europe staged that extraordinary comeback which became known as the “Miracle at Medinah”.
The Molinari/Fleetwood pairing has proven to be an inspired one from Bjorn. They have gone where no Europeans have gone before in winning four from four in fourballs and foursomes across all sessions.
And Bjorn has chosen McIlroy as his man to lead from the front in the singles, with the Northern Irishman – with two wins and two losses from his matches – up against Thomas, who has been America’s best player so far.
On why McIlroy would lead Europe off, Bjorn said: “He’s a fantastic player. He likes to play fast. He doesn’t like to be held up. He likes responsibility. So there’s a lot of reasons to send him out first. He feels like he’s in a place where he can go into that position and get the best out of himself.
“And you have conversations with Rory through time, and you know, this is where he is. In the end, somebody’s got to go there. I have a lot of belief in him, and I trust him as a player, but also trust him very much as a person. So it’s a great place for him to be with responsibility.”
Molinari, who has been a revelation, will seek a fifth straight win in the match in coming up against Phil Mickelson.
“I don’t know what planet he lives on, but it’s not the one that the rest of the players live on,” quipped Bjorn of the Italian’s play over the first two days. While Fleetwood, also with a chance to win five from five, has been faced off against Tony Finau.
“We have a goal, and that is to try to win this trophy, and that’s where the focus stays,” said Bjorn.
SATURDAY FOURBALLS RESULTS
Sergio Garcia & Rory McIlroy bt Tony Finau & Brooks Koepka 2&1
Paul Casey & Tyrrell Hatton bt Dustin Johnson & Rickie Fowler 3&2
Tommy Fleetwood & Francesco Molinari bt Patrick Reed & Tiger Woods 4&3
Jon Rahm & Ian Poulter lost to Justin Thomas & Jordan Spieth 2&1
Fourballs score: Europe 3 USA 1
Overall score: Europe 8 USA 4
SATURDAY FOURSOMES RESULTS
Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson bt Dustin Johnson & Brooks Koepka 2&1
Sergio Garcia & Alex Noren lost to Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson 3&2
Francesco Molinari & Tommy Fleetwood bt Tiger Woods & Bryson DeChambeau ) 5&4
Ian Poulter & Rory McIlroy lost to Jordan Spieth & Justin Thomas 4 & 3
Foursomes score: Europe 2 USA 2
Overall score: Europe 10 USA 6
SUNDAY SINGLES (all times Irish)
11:05am Rory McIlroy v Justin Thomas
11:17am Paul Casey v Brooks Koepka
11:29am Justin Rose v Webb Simpson
11:41am Jon Rahm v Tiger Woods
11:53am Tommy Fleetwood v Tony Finau
12:05pm Ian Poulter v Dustin Johnson
12:17pm Thorbjorn Olesen v Jordan Spieth
12:29pm Sergio Garcia v Rickie Fowler
12:41pm Francesco Molinari v Phil Mickleson
12:53pm Tyrrell Hatton v Patrick Reed
1:05pm Henrik Stenson v Bubba Watson
1:17pm Alex Noren v Bryson Dechambeau