SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES: After an opening-day Europe fightback erased an early US lead, American golf stars must show their own resiliency if they are to keep the Ryder Cup.
Europe fell behind but swept four foursomes matches to carry a 5-3 edge into Saturday’s second day of the biennial team golf showdown at Le Golf National, where the US squad is trying to snap a 25-year European win drought.
“Our team came out and did what they do best, be resilient, and that’s awesome,” said England’s Ian Poulter, the European talisman who sparked an epic last-day comeback win in 2012 at Medinah.
Saturday’s four foursomes and fourballs matches are followed by 12 concluding singles matches Sunday, with the Americans, who won the trophy in 2014 at Hazeltine, needing 14 points to retain and Europe needing 14 1/2 points to win for the ninth time in 12 attempts.
“If we can make up some ground our team can certainly pull it off in singles,” three-time major champion Jordan Spieth said. “We’re two evenly matched teams and here on their soil with the fans they have an extra gear.”
The Americans were solid oddsmakers favourites with 11 of the world’s 17 top-ranked players in the lineup and the odd man out being five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, ranked 25th at age 48.
“We’ve just got to regroup and come out sharp,” Mickelson said. “There’s a lot of golf left, a lot of matches and we’ve just got to come out and bring our best stuff.
“We know these matches are going to be close. We know it’s going to be a fight ’til the end, and we’ve got a lot of points left.”
With 14-time major winner Tiger Woods leading the way, the US squad boasts nine major champions with a combined 31 major titles compared to five major winners and eight major titles for Europe, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy setting the pace.
But what matters now is shotmaking over a difficult French layout half of the US team hadn’t seen until this week.
“We have to shore things up,” US captain Jim Furyk said. “I think our guys will respond, I really do. I have a lot of confidence in this team. It’s going to leave a sour taste in their mouth. We didn’t play our best golf.”
Americans add to own pressure
Furyk admitted seeing European domination on the scoreboard can make matters worse for players struggling to halt a European wave.
“You start seeing those putts go in. You start seeing the birdies. You start seeing the blue numbers on the board. I think the guys press a little hard,” Furyk said.
“I think they try a little bit too hard and I think they put a little bit too much pressure on themselves.”
Rickie Fowler, who was paired with top-ranked Dustin Johnson in a foursomes loss to Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, said the spirited fightback was no shocker.
“We knew it was going to be tough. I don’t think we looked at it as we were going to get up to some sort of crazy lead,” he said. “Each session is a whole new battle. We knew it was going to be a grind.”
And they don’t want to need too many singles wins on Sunday to tighten their grip on the Cup, mindful of the Miracle of Medinah that went against them with a 10-6 edge.
“Those singles matches can go quick,” said two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We just didn’t make the putts we’ve got to make.”