Europe build 10-6 lead but late rally gives USA Ryder Cup lifeline
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas beat Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter 4&3 in the final foursomes as the USA were given a lifeline at the end of day two of the 42nd Ryder Cup.
Europe lead 10-6 heading into the final day, but as the Saturday afternoon session unravelled at Le Golf National, it looked a lost cause for the Americans.
Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari made history as they became the first European pairing to win four successive matches in the Ryder Cup.
They beat Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau 5&4 thanks to a par at the 14th. DeChambeau missed from 10 feet before Molinari stepped up to hole the winning putt.
Europe swiftly followed that up with another point as Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson beat Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka 2&1 by clinching the 17th.
But back came the Americans. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson beat Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren 3&2 to reduce Europe's lead back to five, before Spieth and Thomas took centre stage.
They made it four birdies in five holes to beat McIlroy and Poulter to set up what should be a sensational Sunday in Paris.
It was a day that looked like belonging to Europe, but the two victories in those last two matches could prove vital for the United States ahead of Sunday's singles.
With a four-point lead heading into the individual matches, Team Europe hold the advantage but some devastating putting from Team USA after a quiet first three sessions on the greens means there is still plenty of golf to be played.
Europe are four-and-a-half points away from winning back the Ryder Cup, and captain Thomas Bjorn said afterwards:
" It's been a good day and we have to take all that in and take all the positives. There's plenty of examples of these scorelines not meaning a lot until you play the singles. I've seen too many times what the singles do, so we need to get back into the team-room and recover. We need to focus on what's ahead and not what's gone."
Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy set the standard, beating Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka 2&1, fighting off a three-hole fightback from the Americans to hold on for the point.
But it was Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton who sprung the big surprise, putting in a consistently strong performance to beat Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler 3&2.
Tiger Woods’ tricky weekend continued as he and Patrick Reed were thumped 4&3 Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood.
And the only respite for the Americans game in Match 4, where Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth came out on top in a high-drama match to take it 2&1 against Jon Rahm and Ian Poulter and half a winning streak by the European team.
Speaking after the morning session, European captain Thomas Bjorn said:
" We keep going, we keep going until the end. This is the way the morning session finished yesterday and we've got an afternoon session ahead of us that's going to be tough - there are going to be 16 really good golfers out there on the course. We'll keep pushing. Nothing's won, we're just over the halfway stage. There's no bit happiness yet, there's still a determination and work to be done."
Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton - Ryder Cup 2018Getty Images
Europe's strong start to Saturday built on their incredible comeback on Friday afternoon.
The hosts had trailed 3-1 after the opening Friday fourballs, but the second session saw an unlikely comeback as the leaderboard lit up blue.
First, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose combined to beat Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler 3&2, before Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter downed Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 4&2.
It got worse for the Americans. Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren inflicted a 5&4 defeat on Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, with a miserable session completed when Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood – the only Europeans to score a point in the morning – beating Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth by the same margin.
Alex Noren celebrates with Sergio Garcia during the afternoon foursome matchesGetty Images
The golf course changed in the afternoon with the wind picking up, and with it the momentum swung in Europe's favour.
It was a barnstorming comeback, the like not seen by a European team in a foursome before. Indeed, it was the first time that Team Europe completed a whitewash in any session since 1989.
They suffered a 4-0 reverse in the format en route to defeat in Hazeltine two years ago, but the nature of the victories will have sent European captain Thomas Bjorn off into the evening feeling confident that the momentum is now strongly on his side.
The Swede told Sky Sports: "We are one team and we did it with all 12 today. That was the plan. Those guys that sat out this morning I’m very proud of what they did because they came out and showed quality, class and this was a wonderful afternoon.
Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy helped swing the balance in Europe's favourGetty Images
"There's a long way to go in this but we go home with a good taste now and then we regroup for tomorrow."
Among the highlights was the success of Poulter and McIlroy, who was badly off form in the morning. The duo from two-down to triumph 4&2 over Simpson and Watson in a game that had the massive crowds finally roaring after they had little to shout about in the morning.
Jordan Spieth of the United States celebrates during the morning fourball matches of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 28, 2018 in Paris, France.Eurosport
The US made an impressive start to their defence as they produced a rousing finish to claim a 3-1 lead after the Friday morning fourballs.
Jim Furyk's side always looked the team more in touch with their game as only a 3&1 defeat for Patrick Reed and a toiling Tour champion Tiger Woods – struggling with a stiff back – to Open champion Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood in the bottom match prevented a whitewash.
Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau held out for a 1up victory over Justin Rose and Jon Rahm - who were two up with six holes remaining - while Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler were utterly dominated in a 4&2 victory over a poor Rory McIlroy and Thorbjørn Olesen.
Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton battled back from three down against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas after seven holes only for Thomas to birdie the 15th to apply the pressure.
Hatton missed a birdie attempt at the 18th to halve the match as the USA ended the session well in control of their own destiny with a two-point lead.
Saturday afternoon foursomes
- Henrik Stenson & Justin Rose v Dustin Johnson & Brooks Koepka
- Sergio Garcia & Alex Noren v Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson
- Francesco Molinari & Tommy Fleetwood v Tiger Woods and Bryson Dechambeau
- Rory McIlroy & Ian Poulter v Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth
Saturday morning fourballs: Europe 8 USA 4
- Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia beat Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau 2&1
- Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton beat Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson 3&2
- Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood beat Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods 4&3
- Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth beat Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm 2&1
Friday afternoon foursomes: Europe 5 USA 3
- Henrik Stenson & Justin Rose beat Dustin Johnson & Rickie Fowler 3&2
- Rory McIlroy & Ian Poulter beat Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson 4&2
- Sergio Garcia & Alex Noren beat Phil Mickelson & Bryson DeChambeau 5&4
- Francesco Molinari & Tommy Fleetwood beat Justin Thomas & Jordan Spieth 5&4
Friday morning fourballs: Europe 1 USA 3
- Justin Rose & Jon Rahm lost to Brooks Koepka & Tony Finau 1UP
- Rory McIlroy & Thorbjørn Olesen lost to Johnson & Rickie Fowler 4&2
- Paul Casey & Tyrell Hatton lost to Jordan Spieth & Justin Thomas 1UP
- Franceso Molinari & Tommy Fleetwood beat Patrick Reed & Tiger Woods 3&1