CHASKA, Minn. (AP) — A sprint to the finish by Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello enabled Europe to creep a little closer Saturday morning in the Ryder Cup.
The Spaniards looked to have no chance in the final foursomes match against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who made six birdies in 12 holes to build a 4-up lead. It looked for the longest time as though the morning session would be split, and the Americans would keep a two-point lead.
And then it changed without notice, as it so often does in this event.
Garcia and Cabrera Bello won four of the next five holes to square the match, and Reed had to make a 5-foot par putt on the 18th hole to escape with a halve.
Going into the Saturday noon session of fourballs, the Americans clung to a 6 1/2 to 5 1/2 lead. The Ryder Cup concludes with 12 singles matches Sunday. Europe is going for its fourth straight victory.
“Big putt by Patrick to salvage half a point, although still disappointing for us,” Spieth said.
That’s the way it has gone for the Americans ever since they began the Ryder Cup with a sweep of the opening session.
They still had the lead. It just didn’t feel that way.
Rory McIlroy, who ended the first day by making an eagle and bowing to the raucous American crowd, teams with Thomas Pieters in the first match Saturday morning and they rolled to a 4-and-2 victory over Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.
Justin Rose and Chris Wood never trailed in a 1-up victory over Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson, a match that became tighter than it needed to be when Rose when for the green on the par-5 16th with a 2-up lead and put it in the water.
Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, who won the only American point in fourballs Friday afternoon, were back at it in foursomes. Snedeker holed big putts, his whole body shaking as he pumped his fist, and they dispatched of Henrik Stenson and Matt Fitzpatrick.
But the Americans gave away a victory at the end. Reed hit a few errant shots, including one drive so far out of position that Spieth thought his only chance was to skip it across the pond guarding the left side of the 15th green. It skipped across the water, but rolled back down the bank.
The Spaniards played the last four holes in 2 under.
“It’s the Ryder Cup. It’s as simple as that,” Garcia said. “It was tough out there. They played so good. We just kept telling each other, ‘Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it, keep putting pressure and hopefully, at some point they will slow down a little bit. And we managed to do that.”
For McIlroy, it was personal.
He had lost in all three previous matches involving Mickelson, and he was happy to see he and Pieters get Lefty and Fowler in the opening session. Fowler made a 25-foot birdie putt on the first hole, and the Americans stood to the side as thousands cheered for the longest time. Pieters had to wait for the cheers to subside before he sank a 20-foot putt to match the birdie.
Europe was on its way. McIlroy made a 12-foot birdie on the next hole, and Europe stretched the lead to 3 up when Fowler shanked a shot out of the bunker behind the green on the par-3 fourth, and then hit a drive so far to the right on the fifth hole that Mickelson had to play his second right-handed shot of the week.
Mickelson kept them in it. He holed a 60-foot par putt on No. 8 to halve the hole, and after McIlroy missed a short par putt on No. 9, Mickelson made a 20-foot putt on the 10th to cut the deficit to 1 down. Fowler, however, missed a par putt on the 14th, and Pieters birdied the next to regain control.
U.S. captain Davis Love III went against his model from Medinah four years ago, when every player sat out at least one match to keep them fresh. Spieth and Reed were sent out for the fourth straight match, making them the only Americans that will play all five matches.
European captain Darren Clarke sat rookie Andy Sullivan all of Saturday. He has five players that will go all five matches — McIlroy, Pieters, Garcia, Stenson and Rose.
McIlroy said the Mickelson match was especially personal because of his 0-3 record against him.
“When I saw the draw last night I was like, ‘Yes, I get to have a go at him again.’ I maybe wanted it a little bit more just for that reason,” McIlroy said.
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