Ryder Cup Day Two: USA 9.5 Europe 6.5
Europe need to pull off a comeback to rival the Miracle at Medinah after Team USA dominated the Saturday fourballs to open up a commanding three-point lead at the Ryder Cup.
Darren Clarke’s side halved the overnight two-point deficit after a vastly improved performance in the morning foursomes, but only Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters avoided defeat in the second session as the home side ended the day needing just five points from Sunday’s singles to reclaim the trophy.
Lee Westwood missed a great chance to snatch a half in match two as he blocked a birdie putt of barely two feet on the final green, while Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar were too good for Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer and a fired-up Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth capped a 3-1 session win against Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
The second day was also marred by some unsavoury scenes among the boisterous crowd, with reports of fans being removed from Hazeltine National after several European players were subjected to verbal abuse, despite the efforts of the American players calling for decorum.
McIlroy and Pieters led throughout from the second hole onwards in their foursomes win over Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson, and it was a near-identical scenario against Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka in the afternoon after an early McIlroy birdie.
Pieters then took them two ahead when he drove the green at the fifth and converted the putt for eagle, and a McIlroy birdie at the ninth put them four up at the turn.
Back-to-back Johnson birdies at 11 and 12 were then matched by Pieters at the next two holes, and although the lead was again cut to two, the US pair could not find the birdie they need at 17 to extend the match.
Westwood and Danny Willett looked like getting the better of JB Holmes and Ryan Moore as they led by one with six to play, with the English pair combining for seven birdies. But Holmes levelled at the 13th and the home pair were gifted the 17th in par before Westwood’s unfortunate miss at the last saw the Americans hold on to a one-up lead.
Mickelson and Kuchar gained early control of match three and went two up after four holes, although Garcia did well to keep the Europeans just a hole behind at the turn.
But the US veterans struck decisive blows at 13 and 14 to increase their advantage to three, which proved insurmountable for Garcia and Kaymer slumped to a 2&1 defeat.
Rose and Stenson made an encouraging start in the final match of the day as the Swede birdied the first, but a Reed birdie at the fifth levelled and he then produced the shot of the day – holing out for eagle from 79 yards at the sixth.
A pumped-up Reed followed that with two straight winning birdies to take them three up, and after the Open and Olympic champion cut the arrears to one by the 13th, Reed restored the three-hole lead with further birdies at 14 and 15 before they closed out a 2&1 win
PAIRINGS FOR THE THIRD DAY’S ACTION AT HAZELTINE
(Europe names first, all times BST):
1704: Rory McIlroy v Patrick Reed.
1715: Henrik Stenson v Jordan Spieth.
1726: Thomas Pieters v JB Holmes.
1737: Justin Rose v Rickie Fowler.
1748: Rafa Cabrera Bello v Jimmy Walker.
1759: Sergio Garcia v Phil Mickelson.
1810: Lee Westwood v Ryan Moore.
1821: Andy Sullivan v Brandt Snedeker.
1832: Chris Wood v Dustin Johnson.
1843: Danny Willett v Brooks Koepka.
1854: Martin Kaymer v Matt Kuchar.
1905: Matt Fitzpatrick v Zach Johnson.