Lost Afternoon Puts U.S. Ryder Cup Hopes in Danger

The score after Saturday at the Ryder Cup is familiar, but this time it is the U.S. team that will need a miracle comeback.

Europe dominated the afternoon at Gleneagles, winning 3 1/2 of four points in foursomes to take a commanding 10-6 lead heading into Sunday singles.

The Europeans overcame a 10-6 deficit to win 14 1/2-13 1/2 two years ago for the “Miracle at Medinah” and now the Americans will need some magic of their own to win back the Cup.

“A four-point lead going into the last round is great. But obviously the big word is complacency,” European captain Paul McGinley said. “This job is far from finished. We’re in great position, but we’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow.”

A promising start for the U.S., they won the morning four ball session to pull within 6 1/2 – 5 1/2, turned bad in the afternoon. Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson got Europe off to a fast start with a 2&1 victory over Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar 2&1 in the first foursomes match. Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson pushed the lead up to 8 1/2-5 1/2 with a 5&4 trouncing of Ricky Fowler and Jimmy Walker. Playing in their fourth straight session, Fowler and Walker ran out of gas and their being sent out to play is another item on an ever-growing list of questionable decisions made by U.S. team captain Tom Watson this week.

“The afternoon, we didn’t play well, and we had players that didn’t quite get it done,” Watson said. “European players, they played some very good golf.”

Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia defeated Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan 3&2 and then Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer managed to halve their match with red-hot U.S. Ryder Cup rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

Spieth and Reed have combined for a 2-0-1 record so far this week and will be at the forefront of the Americans’ comeback effort on Sunday as they are going out in the first two matches.

“Everyone in our team room believes that we can do that. They have to win, what, four and a half points out of 12 matches, is that right? We all believe that it’s possible,” Spieth said. “Brookline was 10-6, Medinah was 10-6 the other way. Hopefully we get some good pairings and some guys out early to go make a move. We were able to in both mornings the last two days really, really gain some momentum by seeing red on the board early and I think that’s going to be key tomorrow. Obviously that’s going to be key tomorrow. But we’re ready.”

Despite the large hole they are in, there is hope for the Americans. The U.S. has come back from this deficit before, in 1999 at Brookline the U.S. rallied for a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory after entering the day trailing 10-6.

The Sunday Singles match ups are as follows:
6:36 a.m. ET — Jordan Spieth (USA) v. Graeme McDowell (EUR)
6:48 a.m. ET — Patrick Reed (USA) v. Henrik Stenson (EUR)
7 a.m. ET — Rickie Fowler (USA) v. Rory McIlroy (EUR)
7:12 a.m. ET — Hunter Mahan (USA) v. Justin Rose (EUR)
7:24 a.m. ET — Phil Mickelson (USA) v. Stephen Gallacher (EUR)
7:36 a.m. ET — Bubba Watson (USA) v. Martin Kaymer (EUR)
7:48 a.m. ET — Matt Kuchar (USA) v. Thomas Bjorn (EUR)
8 a.m. ET — Jim Furyk (USA) v. Sergio Garcia (EUR)
8:12 a.m. ET — Webb Simpson (USA) v. Ian Poulter (EUR)
8:24 a.m. ET — Keegan Bradley (USA) v. Jamie Donaldson (EUR)
8:36 a.m. ET — Jimmy Walker (USA) v. Lee Westwood (EUR)
8:48 a.m. ET — Zach Johnson (USA) v. Victor Dubuisson (EUR)

As you can see, Watson is sending out Spieth and Reed right away in hopes the Ryder Cup rookies can continue their strong play and spark a comeback. Rickie Fowler against Rory McIlroy is another big one with two of golf’s brightest young stars squaring off in a match that will be pivotal to the American’s comeback hopes.

“I have a trust in my players that they can get it done. I have an innate trust. I’ve gotten to really know them, and they have what it takes,” Watson said. “They are just going to have to play better. They know that. They know absolutely what they have to do. We’ve got to smoke ’em. We’ve to take them out early. That’s the whole point of the way we set this up.”

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