Saturday, June 23, 2018

U.S. on verge of Ryder Cup win

CHASKA, Minn. — Patrick Reed took over his match with putting and passion, and the rest of the Americans followed suit Saturday afternoon in a pivotal four-ball session that left them on the verge — again — of winning back the Ryder Cup.

Reed and his bullish attitude were at their best starting with a wedge he holed out for eagle. That was the centerpiece of a four-hole stretch that carried he and Jordan Spieth to a 2-and-1 win in the final match of another raucous, and at times rude, afternoon at Hazeltine.

After three afternoon wins, the Americans had a 91/2-61/2 lead over Europe. They need to win five of 12 singles matches today to reclaim the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008, and only the third time in the past two decades of the biennial event.

Europe trudged off the course with recent history on its side. It trailed by a slightly larger margin, 10-6, four years ago at Medinah in Illinois with Davis Love III at the helm of the U.S. team, as he is this year, and then put together a staggering display of putting to produce the largest comeback by a visiting team in Ryder Cup history.

"We're going to have to play (today) as we've done before from a worse deficit," European captain Darren Clarke said.

Saturday's final hour turned three matches in the Americans' favor, enough to overcome the undefeated tandem of Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters. They won all three of their matches over the first two days, and they were never more dynamic than four-balls Saturday when they were 11 under through 17 holes. Pieters drove the par-4 fifth green and made eagle, and McIlroy stared down the heckling American crowd with every birdie that left Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka no chance in a 3-and-1 victory.

"It's a tough environment for us to come and play in. We expect that," said McIlroy, whose day included being serenaded with Sweet Caroline, a reference to his former fiancee, pro tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, and who had one fan thrown out for shouting a sexually suggestive comment.

"It's same for the U.S. guys when they come to play in Europe. You have to keep your concentration out there. It's been a long day, and sometimes emotions run high. … The more they shouted, the better we played. I hope they shout at us all day (today)."

Nobody was more in tune with the raucous galleries than Reed, who appeared to play with a constant flow of adrenaline. "I just feed off it, for some reason," said Reed, who had six birdies and the eagle in his four-ball match.

The highlight of his win came when Reed dropped his approach shot onto the sixth green just right. The ball rolled back perfectly, plopping into the cup for an eagle and the second of four straight holes won by the U.S. pair. Reed erupted in celebration, exchanging hand slaps and fist bumps with Spieth and their caddies, and pointing a double-arm pump as he yelled, "Come on! Come on!" at the crowd.

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