PGA: Europe holds 5-point Ryder Cup lead as U.S. comes to life


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Patrick Cantlay came up clutch on the final two holes of the afternoon to deliver a necessary point to the United States team, while Team Europe still holds a commanding 10 1/2-5 1/2 lead at the 44th Ryder Cup after Saturday’s play outside Rome.

Europe needs just four points out of Sunday’s 12 singles matches at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club to win the cup. The U.S. team must win 8 1/2 points Sunday to retain it.

“We’re in a great position,” Team Europe captain Luke Donald of England said on the NBC broadcast. “It’s time to take care of business, go out early and put some blue on the board. They have to win a lot more matches than we do. We’re in the driving seat, we’re at home, we’re going to have the crowd behind us and again, I feel very good about my guys.”

Cantlay and Wyndham Clark rallied to beat Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and England’s Matt Fitzpatrick 1 up in the final four-ball match Saturday.

“We needed some momentum going into tomorrow and hopefully we have just a little bit of a ray of light and we can build off this session and try to really pull off a big, big comeback tomorrow,” Cantlay said.

McIlroy drained an 11-foot birdie putt at No. 14 to put Europe 1 up. Cantlay’s tee shot at the par-3 17th landed inside 10 feet, and he converted the putt to tie the match again.

Despite a wayward tee shot at the par-5 18th, McIlroy reached the green in three. Cantlay’s flop shot from the greenside rough flew 43 feet past the hole to set up a long birdie try, but he rolled it in and drew a raucous American celebration.

In the process, Cantlay muted the celebration from Europe fans, some of whom mocked his choice to play without a cap by waiving their own hats at the California native.

“I was smiling all day,” Cantlay said. “It was like I had a standing ovation walking onto every tee and every green. I told Wyndham when we were walking to the first tee to use it as fuel, and we did all day.”

McIlroy and Fitzpatrick then missed their birdie putts that could have tied the match.

The United States, which last defeated Europe on its home soil in 1993, is on the brink of handing over the Ryder Cup after winning in a 19-9 demolition two years ago at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

The largest Sunday comeback in Ryder Cup history was the Americans’ rally in 1999, when they trailed by four points through two days before winning 14 1/2-13 1/2.

U.S. captain Zach Johnson said the Europeans have been on top of their game and plenty more work lay ahead.

“If there’s any tournament in the world that is about momentum, I have great confidence it’s this one,” Johnson said. “Seeing some red this afternoon is really what’s important. The team room will be in a different state — not that they were negative yesterday, because they were not. But we will hash this out.”

The U.S. team trailed by five after Day 1 and continued to struggle Saturday morning, as Europe won three of four foursomes (alternate-shot) matches.

Scandinavian rising stars Viktor Hovland of Norway and Ludvig Aberg of Sweden trampled Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka 9 and 7 in a record-breaking morning foursomes match. It marked the largest margin of victory for an 18-hole match in Ryder Cup history, leaving Scheffler to wipe away tears after the thorough defeat.

“We’re meeting two strong guys, No. 1 in the world and five-time major champ, so we tried to not give them anything, and we played really, really solid,” Hovland said. “Obviously we didn’t meet a sharp Scottie and Brooks but we played some really nice golf today.”

Scheffler and Koepka, two of the U.S. team’s most decorated golfers, were benched for the afternoon four-ball matches.

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, however, were kept in the U.S. lineup and went 0-for-2 — losing 2 and 1 to McIlroy and England’s Tommy Fleetwood in foursomes and 3 and 2 to England’s Justin Rose and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre in four-ball.

With Rose and MacIntyre 3 up at the short par-4 16th, U.S. captain Zach Johnson spoke to Spieth on the tee box, and Spieth changed his driver for a 3-wood. His tee shot then came up well short of the green complex and bounced into the water hazard. Europe cruised to victory from there.

The U.S. had its best stretch of the competition earlier in the afternoon. Sam Burns and Collin Morikawa defeated Hovland and Aberg 4 and 3, and Max Homa and Brian Harman beat Fleetwood and Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard 2 and 1.

Homa, the only American player who will play in all five sessions this weekend, leads the U.S. with 2 1/2 points. He had six birdies and an eagle in his afternoon four-ball and chipped in for par at No. 15 to make it dormie.

Fleetwood answered at No. 16 by chipping in for eagle from the thick greenside rough, but Homa’s par at No. 17 was enough to put it away.

It had taken the U.S. until the 11th match of the competition to earn a full point. Homa chipped in for eagle at the par-4 16th to secure a 4-and-2 win for himself and Harman over Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Austria’s Sepp Straka.

To finish off the morning, Spaniard Jon Rahm and Englishman Tyrrell Hatton rallied to beat Cantlay and Xander Schauffele 2 and 1.

The American duo went eagle-birdie-birdie at Nos. 12-14 to win three straight and move ahead 1 up, but the Europeans tied it at No. 16 and Rahm came 7 inches away from a hole-in-one at the par-3 17th. Cantlay answered by knocking his tee shot 3 1/2 feet from the hole, but Schauffele’s birdie putt to extend the match lipped out.

–Field Level Media


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