Europe will have to tie the biggest comeback in history to retain the Ryder Cup as it enters the final day trailing the U.S. by 10 points to six.
The U.S., which has lost six of the past eight editions of golf’s premier team competition, won three of four morning foursomes matches yesterday at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. Europe won the final two matches of the day after losing the first two fourball matches.
“We’re excited about our position,” U.S. captain Davis Love III told reporters. “But we know it’s not over.”
The U.S. needs 4 1/2 points from today’s 12 singles matches to regain the trophy, while Europe requires 14 points in total to keep the title it won two years ago. The biggest comeback in Ryder Cup history was in 1999, when the U.S. won after entering the final day trailing 10-6.
“The last two matches were massive,” Europe team captain Jose Maria Olazabal said in a televised interview. “It gives us just a chance. It’s been done before.”
On the first tee this morning, Bubba Watson didn’t demand the silence that golfers usually prefer as they hit their shots. Instead, the Masters Tournament champion encouraged the crowd to cheer noisily as he struck his drive in the first singles match, against Luke Donald of England.
The American team of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson secured yesterday’s first point. The duo defeated England’s Lee Westwood and Donald 7-and-6, meaning they had an insurmountable seven-hole lead with six remaining.
The U.S. also got wins in the morning from the pairings of Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, who defeated Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium and Sergio Garcia of Spain 2-and-1; and Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker, who beat Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell by one hole.
Englishmen Justin Rose and Ian Poulter posted the only success in the foursomes for Europe, by one hole against Watson and Webb Simpson.
Tiger Woods sat out the foursomes, in which two-man teams alternate hitting shots with the same ball with the lowest score winning. It was the first time the winner of 14 major tournaments didn’t compete in a Ryder Cup session in seven appearances.
In the afternoon fourballs, Woods and Steve Stricker were paired for the third time and lost to Garcia and Donald by one hole. Woods and Stricker, who trailed the entire match after losing the first hole, are the only Americans who have yet to win a point.
Woods goes out last in today’s singles, against Francesco Molinari of Italy, with Stricker playing in the 11th match, against Martin Kaymer of Germany.
In the fourball format, each golfer in the two-man teams plays his own ball, with the lowest individual score winning the hole for the team.
Also in the fourballs, Watson and Simpson defeated Rose and Molinari 5-and-4 before Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar beat Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie of Scotland by one hole.
Poulter and McIlroy won the last fourball by one hole over Zach Johnson and Dufner. Poulter birdied the last five holes to secure the victory for the European duo.
“We needed to get something going,” Poulter said in a televised interview. “We had to make birdies and, wow, five in a row, it was awesome.”
The Americans won three of four fourball matches on the opening day afternoon after the sides split the morning’s foursomes matches 2-2.
The U.S. team features five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, while four of the European golfers are ranked among the top five.
Europe has won three of the past four editions of the Ryder Cup, including a one-point victory in 2010 at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales.
The 40th Ryder Cup is scheduled for Sept. 26-28 at Gleneagles, Scotland.