With two dramatic wins in the last two matches, Europe kept themselves within shouting distance before Sunday’s singles matches at the 2012 Ryder Cup. As Justin Rose said on his twitter feed after the round – “So you’re saying there’s a chance”.
With that said, it is still a major advantage to the Americans heading into Sunday. With the 10-6 lead, the U.S. will only need 4 ½ of the possible 12 points to regain the cup. Surprisingly, the Americans made more headway during the alternate shot format, winning three of four points in the morning.
Keegan Bradley was again electric, leading him and Phil Mickelson to a whopping 7&6 rout of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. The partnership of Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson proved successful once again as they took down Colsaerts and Garcia 2&1. The other U.S. match win came in the form of revenge for Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker as they halved the 18th hole against McIlroy and McDowell to take a 1up win. The lone European point in the morning session came thanks to Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, whose day was just getting started, as they held off Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson 1up.
The most interesting decision of the day came when Captain Davis Love III stuck to his guns and sat down Keegan Bradley despite his incredible play in the first three matches. Love has said all along that none of the team members would play in all five matches, and as such Bradley (and partner Mickelson) watched the afternoon matches from the sidelines. I think in retrospect, Love might been better off playing Bradley again and trying to bury Europe before Sunday began.
He could have put Bradley with the struggling Tiger Woods instead of Steve Stricker, who has looked in over his head much of the week. Bradley’s energy could have breathed life into Woods and would’ve made for a wild atmosphere. I don’t think Bradley is going to tire out at this point, and the extra point could have really put it away for the U.S.
As the better ball competition got underway in the afternoon it was clear that Europe needed a spark from somewhere in order to stay in the hunt. That spark came late in the day thanks to an incredible run by Ian Poulter. With the Europe side 1 down on the 14th tee, Poulter would go on to birdie all the remaining five holes to win the match 1up. He was hitting good shots, but also made a ton of feet in putts over those five holes. The world’s number one player, Rory McIlory, was just a bystander as Poulter held off some solid play from the U.S. side of Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.
The other European side to post a point in the afternoon was Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, after their dramatic win over Woods and Stricker. The Euros never trailed in the match, and had a commanding 4up lead at the turn. Woods played solid on the back nine and reeled the Euros in, reducing the lead to one after the 15th. Each of the final three holes were halved, however, and Europe held on when Stricker lipped out a birdie putt on the last.
One of the two afternoon points for the U.S. was won by Watson and Simpson, who pounded Rose and Molinari 5&4. While the Watson/Simpson pairing didn’t make much sense in the morning alternate shot, they are clearly a great team for best ball format. The steady Simpson, who won the 2012 U.S. Open, is a great foil for the aggressive and creative Watson. If both players remain in top form for the years to come, don’t be surprised to see that pairing be quite successful in both Ryder and President’s Cups.
The other U.S. point came from the relatively quiet team of Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar. Johnson and Kuchar never trailed against Colsaerts and Lawrie, but also never led by more than two holes in a tight match.
What could have ended up being a rather quiet day at the Ryder Cup turned dramatic in the final moments with a couple European points. The matches really ‘felt’ like the Ryder Cup” at the end, and set up what could still be a very competitive Sunday.
Europe obviously needs a huge day to win, but even a couple early European points could inject some drama into the singles matches. The 10-6 lead for the U.S. is the same lead Europe held before the 1999 singles matches which famously turned out great for the Americans. Only time will tell if Europe has a similar rally in store to try and retain possession of the Ryder Cup.