By Thomas Dodd
- USA win Saturday afternoon fourball session 3-1 to increase overall lead in 2016 Ryder Cup
- Davis Love III’s men lead 9.5-6.5 with one day of competition left in Minnesota
- European captain Darren Clarke now has big decision to make ahead of Sunday singles.
HAZELTINE NATIONAL, MINNESOTA, AMERICA- United States will take a three point lead into the final day of the 2016 Ryder Cup after a finishing strongly in Saturday afternoon’s fourballs.
The hosts won the fourth session of the week 3-1 to increase their overall lead once more to 9.5-6.5 with just the twelve Sunday singles remaining tomorrow afternoon.
Trailing by a point after the morning foursomes, Europe briefly pulled level when Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters won the battle of the long hitters against Dustin Johnson and Brooks Keopka, defeating the home pairing 3&1.
High quality golf and highly-charged emotions punctuated the entire day, and was apparent no more so than from Fedex Champion McIlroy and rookie Pieters, who both took every opportunity to roar with delight and fist pump to the partisan US crowds.
Parity lasted only a few moments, as Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar withstood a late charge from Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer to claim victory on the 17th green.
The home side seized control of a topsy turvy match when Mickelson and Kuchar both birdied from long range at the 10th and the 12th respectively, and a birdie on the penultimate hole was enough to seal the point.
If Europe are to lose tomorrow evening they may look back at the half point lost by Lee Westwood and Danny Willett in the third match of the afternoon.
After battling back so hard to be all square with two to play against J.B Holmes and Ryan Moore, the boys from Worksop – who played together in the final round of the Masters as Willett won the green jacket – both bogeyed the short 17th and when Westwood missed from three feet on the 18th to win the hole and half the match the Americans had another point on the board.
The three point advantage was sealed by Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, who for the second time in the week defeated Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose 2&1 on the 17th.
The young duo may have clinched their fifth Ryder Cup point as a twosome, but Spieth had the sensational Reed to thank for the latest success.
The fired up American made nine birdies and an eagle to keep out Rose and Stenson – who momentarily threatened a miraculous comeback when the Swede chipped in for eagle on the par five 16th.
A phenomenal day of golf was confirmed by the stats, an astonishing 96 birdies and three eagles over the course of one of the most exciting Ryder Cup days in recent memory.
Captain’s Davis Love III and Darren Clarke must now select the best order in which to send out their men in tomorrow’s singles match-ups and the home captain must surely have learnt from Medinah two years ago, when he paid the price for keeping his big hitters back as Europe staged an unforgettable comeback.
For Clarke, the plan must surely be to front load his team in the hopes of getting points on the board as early as possible.
Sunday’s singles matches will start from 17.04 (BST) and tee off every 12 minutes thereafter as Europe seek to overturn another deficit away from home with one day to go.
Saturday afternoon fourball results:
Brooks Koepka/Dustin Johnson lost to. Rory McIlroy/Thomas Pieters 3&1
J B Holmes/Ryan Moore beat Danny Willett/Lee Westwood 1up
Phil Mickelson/Matt Kuchar beat Sergio Garcia/Martin Kaymer 2&1
Patrick Reed/Jordan Spieth beat Henrik Stenson/Justin Rose 2&1
41st Ryder Cup
United States 9.5
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