CHICAGO, Illinois, September 30 – The United States maintained a stranglehold on the 39th Ryder Cup by winning the foursomes and sharing the fourballs to leave Europe trailing 10-6 at the end of the day.
That left Davis Love and his men in prime position to retain the trophy they lost agonisingly at Celtic Manor, Wales two years ago.
It left Europe needing to match the record last day comeback set by the US team at Brookline, Massachusetts in 1999 when they won from four down.
Saturday afternoon’s fourballs ended with two wins for Europe as darkness fell after the Americans had won the first two on the back of dominating the morning foursomes 3-1.
To retain the cup on Sunday, Jose Maria Olazabal’s men need to win eight out of the closing 12 singles, a highly-unlikely scenario given that the Americans have habitually been stronger on the final day.
The Americans need just four and a half points to get past the winning post.
Mission impossible for some, but US crowd-pleaser Bubba Watson said there was still plenty fight left in the European team.
“The team is not going to lay down. Europe is not going to lay down. They are not going to give it to us. We have to play good golf and come out focused and ready to win some points,” he said.
The home team took up early Saturday where they left off Friday evening with one hand round the European throats as the star duo of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley once again led the charge.
Their 7 and 6 thumping of former world No.1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald equalled the highest ever 18-hole winning margin by a Ryder Cup pairing, and the first time such a drubbing had been handed out since 1991.
Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson scored their second straight win for the United States, while Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker turned the tables on Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell who beat them in the first match out on Friday.
Only English pair Ian Poulter and Justin Rose provided some respite for Olazabal with a vicory at the last hole over Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
That left the Americans 8-4 ahead at the end of the morning’s play and Olazabal saying his team had to at least carry the afternoon session to have any realistic chance of retaining the trophy on Sunday.
But that never looked likely as once again the hosts dominated from the start of the fourballs.
Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson came home with their second straight win in the format, edging the untested partnership of Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie by 1 up.
Watson and Simpson then put their morning reverse behind them to romp away to a 5 and 4 win over Rose and Francesco Molinari.
That put the Americans 10-4 up with two games to go and the dejection was clear to see on the faces of Europe’s players, fans and skipper Olazabal.
There was something for them to cheer at last when Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, both pointless through the three first sessions, defeated Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker at the last hole.
It was a third straight defeat for the Woods-Stricker pairing, having been left out of the morning session – the first time that Woods had been benched in a Ryder Cup career dating back to 1997.
And then five straight birdies from the 14th from Poulter, including a clutch 12-footer at the last saw the Englishman and world No.1 McIlroy, playing for the first time without McDowell, overhaul the previously unbeaten Dufner and Johnson for a win that left Europe with a glimmer of a hope.
“It was huge – those last two matches were massive. That keeps us in just with a chance. It’s been done before in the past. And tomorrow is going to be a big day,” Olazabal said.