The Ryder Cup’s first two days were defined by a determined European Team and an opponent who was not up to the task, unable to match Europe’s emotion and execution.
The U.S. didn’t win a match on the first day, falling behind by a record-setting margin. The questions quickly accumulated. Reasons were needed for such a confounding failure from a team that had been so dominant just two years earlier.
Was the U.S. Team, repeatedly called the “boy’s club” because of the close relationships between its members, lacking the tight bond that Europe always enjoys? Was the layoff too long? Should more players have competed since the TOUR Championship? Maybe it was the analytics, travel schedule or the mystery ailment that U.S. Captain Zach Johnson referred to in his press conference.
Whatever the reason, whether jet lag or rust or golf’s inherent unpredictability, the United States looked unmoored for the first day and a half at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club. It wasn’t hitting enough fairways or making enough putts. Europe, on the other hand, seemed to summon its usual home magic and momentum, with the emotion of the event limited to that of the home team savoring a rout.
The United States finally summoned an answer in the gloaming of Saturday evening. Now, the question entering Sunday’s Singles match is whether it was too little and too late.
Europe holds a five-point lead, but a galvanized U.S. Team lays claim to the momentum that has been missing from a week where the scoreboards have been awash in blue.
“Team Europe, they have got some of the most incredible talents in the game, and they have been executing,” said the United States’ Brian Harman, who won both of his matches Saturday. “They have been out-executing and out-playing us for the majority of two days.
“It’s just nice to end the night a little better than we did last night.”
On Friday, Europe made two birdies and an eagle on 18 to salvage three ties and keep the U.S. without a win. On Saturday, Marco Simone’s long, par-5 finishing hole was the scene of America’s most electric moment, as well as the week’s biggest controversy.
With the United States’ final stroke of the day, Patrick Cantlay holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the final hole. It flipped a match in the United States’ favor for the first time all week, and pulled the team within five points after it looked like it could start Sunday facing a record deficit. This U.S. Team is galvanized by not only its comeback, but reports that it was a team divided.
Trailing 10.5-5.5, the U.S. will still need an unprecedented Sunday to retain the Cup. A team has never erased a five-point deficit going into the Ryder Cup’s 12 Singles matches. The requisite 8.5 points required by the U.S. would match the most ever earned in Singles.
But once feckless, the U.S. now appears determined. A tepid opponent is now an inspired one.
“We’ve been on a mission all week,” said Cantlay. “We are going to be on a mission tomorrow.”
Cantlay was taunted by crowds and then questioned repeatedly over a report Saturday that he was not wearing a hat as a silent protest against players not being paid to compete this week. Fans waved their hats in the air in response, and the U.S. Team responded in kind after Cantlay’s putt on 18.
There was a tense exchange between Cantlay’s caddie, Joe LaCava, and Rory McIlroy on the 18th green after McIlroy said LaCava was too close to him as he lined up his putt. McIlroy was then seen shouting at someone in the parking lot before teammate Shane Lowry forced him into a car.
“Ryder Cup is always passionate,” said European Captain Luke Donald.
Saturday’s scene is the most emotional this lopsided Ryder Cup has gotten, and adds intrigue to what may have been a relatively inconsequential Sunday, when Europe’s winning margin would have been the only question remaining. It still retains a large advantage.
“We’ll go out there as 12 strong,” said European Captain Luke Donald. Johnson’s retort? “We’ve got 12 guys. We’ve got 12 points. I believe every guy on my team can win a point.”
The U.S. enters Singles after winnings its first session of the week. It won just one of the week’s first 12 matches but took three of four Saturday afternoon. The surprise team of Sam Burns and Collin Morikawa won 4 and 3, while Max Homa and Brian Harman followed by winning their second match of the day.
The U.S. had a chance to sweep, as well, but an ignominious week from Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth continued after they lost a lead in the third match. Cantlay kept his team’s deficit from growing any bigger with birdies on the last three holes. He and Wyndham Clark were 1-down to Matt Fitzpatrick and Rory McIlroy with two holes remaining, but after the other three players in the group missed the 17th green, Cantlay hit his tee shot to 8 feet and made the putt. That set the stage for his clutch putt on 18.
“Momentum … is a pretty lethal deal,” Johnson said.
Enough for a record-setting comeback in a competition that’s quickly become impassioned? That remains to be seen.
Source : PGA Tour