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Ryder Cup: Europe on the brink after super Saturday

By Chris Murphy, CNN
updated 1:47 PM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
The victorious European team and captain Paul McGinley after retaining the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. The victorious European team and captain Paul McGinley after retaining the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
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Ryder Cup: Day 2 at Gleneagles
Ryder Cup: Day 2 at Gleneagles
Ryder Cup: Day 2 at Gleneagles
Ryder Cup: Day 2 at Gleneagles
Ryder Cup: Day 2 at Gleneagles
Ryder Cup: Day 2 at Gleneagles
Ryder Cup: Day 2 at Gleneagles
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
Ryder Cup Day 1: Let battle commence!
  • Europe on course to retain Ryder Cup after doubling overnight lead
  • U.S. team trail Europe 10-6 with Sunday's singles left to play
  • "The guys were great, and brave, again," says Europe captain Paul McGinley
  • U.S lost at Medinah in 2012 after leading by the same margin

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Gleneagles, Scotland (CNN) -- A 10-6 scoreline in the Ryder Cup can be dangerous — just ask Davis Love III.

Two years ago, the then U.S. captain found himself in exactly the same situation as his 2014 European counterpart Paul McGinley does now, with a seemingly insurmountable Saturday night lead.

But that staggering session in Chicago produced a Sunday that will be talked about forevermore in this competition's history as the "Miracle of Medinah."

And it will also provide inspiration for both captains as they impart final words to their respective collectives; McGinley as he warns against complacency, Tom Watson as he underlines what is possible in this form of golf.

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Several of the U.S. players have used the hashtag #TeamRedeem on Twitter in reference to that Medinah mauling. Should they turn this deficit around, it will be redemption of seismic proportions.

Just as it was on Friday, the afternoon foursomes — where pairs play alternate shots — steered the Ryder Cup ship in Europe's direction.

With three matches in the can, England's Justin Rose was the man to twist the knife, securing a half on the final green against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, to scupper a third straight victory for the American pair.

As Rose and partner Martin Kaymer embraced, the sun's final embers faded ever further over the Ochil Hills in Scotland, taking with it perhaps the United States' last hopes of a first win on the continent since 1993.

Europe now needs just four-and-a-half points from Sunday's 12 singles matches to secure a third straight Ryder Cup and its sixth in the last seven.

As Watson filed into the media center to speak to reporters he said: "In the words of our President, we got a good shellacking this afternoon."

He continued: "You might think it is a given that the Europeans will win — but I don't. We've got to smoke 'em. We've got to take 'em out early.

"I seem to recall there's been a little bit of history about that scoreline — Brookline in 1999 and in Medinah in 2012 — and the players are already talking about that."

America's morning again

Trailing 5-3 after Friday's action, the U.S. needed a response — and got one.

Again, they won a hard-fought morning fourballs session by 2½ to 1½, a record-breaking win for Rose and Henrik Stenson canceled out by victories for Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan, as well as the electric pairing of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

From a European perspective, a further bright spot was the re-emergence of talisman Ian Poulter, soundly beaten on Friday, who helped partner Rory McIlroy, the world No. 1, to an unlikely, and vital half point.

Leading 6½ - 4½ going into afternoon, rookie Jamie Donaldson and erstwhile partner Lee Westwood set the tone, prising out a two-hole lead over Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

That was halved on the 14th but a birdie on 16 for the Europeans set them up to close the match out on the 17th, cueing a sing-a-long celebration with the amassed crowd.

It also saw Westwood supersede legendary Spaniard Seve Ballesteros in terms of Ryder Cup points won, with 23 on the board, something he later acknowledged made him "very proud."

The next point to drop came from the match that was set off last, containing a duo that have proved an instant hit together — Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson.

An immaculate front nine saw the 2010 U.S. Open champion and his French companion capitalize on signs of fatigue from Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler, playing their fourth straight match.

Arrow straight drives and piercing iron shots saw the Europeans slip into a five-hole lead before the match had even turned for the clubhouse, Dubuisson retaining a cool and classy edge on his debut appearance.

"Complacency has been the buzzword in our team room all week and we'll be working on that again tonight," McDowell, from Northern Ireland, told a press conference.

"We were there two years ago and we know exactly what can happen."

Behind them, the latest blossoming European bromance had a point to prove, and win, after one defeat and one halved point.

McIlroy and Spain's Sergio Garcia, ranked at No. 3 in the world, carried a narrow 1up advantage over Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan for a full 10 holes, before they reached the 14th.

A birdie there eased the tension before another at 16, in front of a 15,000-strong crowd that populated every green space around the hole, sealed victory and prompted a palpable sense of relief as the pair embraced.

"The guys were great, and brave, again," McGinley told reporters of his men.

"It was a strong U.S. performance this morning, but we rode that storm, came out strongly and the guys produced again."

When asked what his biggest enemy was now he replied: "Complacency. We need a professional attitude.

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"We were a beaten team the first two days in Medinah, pulled from pillar to post. We all see how quickly it can turn around."

Record-breaking round

After Europe's storming final session on day one, Saturday began with a record-breaking match that took full advantage of the benign conditions.

Rose and Sweden's Henrik Stenson picked up where they left off on Friday, matched step for step by the American pair of Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar.

In total, they carded a remarkable 21 birdies during their match, the European pair setting a new record by reaching a mark of 12 -under. And that without playing the last two holes.

Watson, the two-time Masters champion, had again encouraged ear-splitting noise from the galleries when teeing off the first, but there was very little else to cheer in his round.

His birdie on the third did take Team USA into the lead, doubled when Kuchar did the same on six, but from then on in Europe took control.

Back-to-back birdies ensured the match was all square going into the back nine, after which Rose and Stenson attached the afterburners.

They birdied every single hole on the way in, settling the match on 16 after Rose's approach shot landed within two feet.

It was a good job Rose and Stenson's form endured, for the rest of the session belonged to those in red.

Donald and Westwood, victorious on Friday, were behind from the first hole against Furyk and Mahan, and didn't win a single hole before succumbing on the 16th.

Spieth and Reed, controversially benched on Friday afternoon after their handsome morning victory, again showcased an indifference to this most fierce of competition cauldrons.

An early wobble aside, when they trailed by two holes after three, the young partnership regrouped to ensure that was the extent of European success for Kaymer and Thomas Bjorn as four birdies in six holes propelled the United States to a 5&3 victory.

Once again it was left to McIlroy to provide the lunchtime drama as he and Poulter wrestled for a point against Walker and Fowler.

Europe were two up at the turn but three birdies in four holes tipped the tie in Walker and Fowler's favour. There was much more drama to come, though.

Poulter chips in

Poulter, quiet by his impossibly high Ryder Cup standards, chipped in on 15 to halve the hole and broke out his famous bulging-eyed fist pump to wild acclaim from the galleries.

A birdie on the following hole gave rise to another moment of celebration and ensured that once again, contests involving McIlroy, Fowler and Walker, went to the very last hole.

Ultimately, Fowler's immaculate approach from 240 yards gave him an eagle putt to secure USA's third point of the session, but it slipped by and left honours even.

Watson admitted it may have been a mistake sending Fowler and Walker out for their fourth straight match in the afternoon while Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley sat out the entire day.

"Phil text me after I'd told him of my decision to say 'Give me a chance' and I had to tell him no," Watson explained.

Now his hopes lie on another miracle, this time on European soil, and he responded accordingly by front-loading his singles line-up, sending Spieth, Reed and Fowler out first to face McDowell, McIlroy and Stenson respectively.

Sunday's singles matches:

Graeme McDowell v Jordan Spieth

Henrik Stenson v Patrick Reed

Rory McIlroy v Rickie Fowler

Justin Rose v Hunter Mahan

Stephen Gallacher v Phil Mickelson

Martin Kaymer v Bubba Watson

Thomas Bjorn v Matt Kuchar

Sergio Garcia v Jim Furyk

Ian Poulter v Webb Simpson

Jamie Donaldson v Keegan Bradley

Lee Westwood v Jimmy Walker

Victor Dubuisson v Zach Johnson

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