Analysis inside from
Paul Hayward, James Corrigan, Oliver Brown and Tom Cary
After the Paralysis in Paris, America have a chance to match Europe’s Miracle of Medinah six years ago. But it should worry the defending champions that it took the threat of humiliation to shake them from their torpor.
Too cold, too tired, too spooked by European passion. Whatever the cause, Jim Furyk’s team of multiple major championship winners collapsed from 3-0 up to 8-3 down before fighting back in the foursomes to trail 10-6.
Nobody on the American side wants a shellacking back home only two years after they broke a dismal run in this competition. Europe, though, are not playing like a side susceptible to a Sunday sensation.
“We’d better play good,” said Bubba Watson, who reversed his own poor form to stop Sergio Garcia replacing Sir Nick Faldo as Europe’s all-time leading scorer, beating Garcia and Alex Noren 3&2, in concert with Webb Simpson.
America have come back from this kind of pickle before, back in the days of fashion crimes. Their notorious postcard shirts at Brookline in 1999 were no impediment to them winning the first six matches on Sunday to erase Europe’s commanding lead. That record stood until a win for Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy as evening fell on the second day near Chicago lit the fuse for an upset.
This is already a seismic Ryder Cup. So much has changed. Phil Mickelson’s strange hold over American captains has been broken. And those expecting to see Tiger Woods’s new cuddliness extend to fourballs and foursome golf were disabused of that hope. Swearing his way round Le Golf National with misfiring partners – first Patrick Reed, then Bryson DeChambeau – Woods fell back to earth after his epic tour title win in Atlanta on Sunday – his first for five years. Stiffness, jet lag and emotional disorientation all preyed on Woods, who has not won a match with a partner since Celtic Manor in 2010.
Captain America (Reed) was court-martialled after the morning session and dropped. Quite right, too. Going round with Woods, America’s crowd-neutraliser was a lamb, losing his game as well as his combative edge. It was shocking to see Reed enfeebled so soon after his Masters win.
Europe’s record run of eight consecutive victories in 24 hours left the Americans totally bewildered. For them, yesterday’s foursomes were a fight for salvation – of their own reputations, more than their standing as better-team-on-paper. We should know by now that Ryder Cups shred those written assessments of the talent ratios.
This tournament will be remembered as the one where Mickelson’s age (48) caught up with him and Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari became one of the great pairings. Paul Casey’s comeback
after a 10-year absence, meanwhile, was so successful it rendered him temporarily speechless with pleasure.
The double-precedent of comebacks from 10-6 down will keep Europe mentally sharp for today’s dozen duels. America showed just enough steel yesterday afternoon for Thomas Bjorn’s men to be wary of triumphalism. Justin Spieth and Justin Thomas were particularly fierce. They played superbly to beat Poulter and McIlroy 4 & 3. Later Furyk called Thomas “a feisty guy – a little spark plug”.
With its vast viewing stands and elevated vantage points, Le Golf National has steered Ryder Cup golf into the age of mass spectatorship. The effect on players is plain. Expansion has raised the cost of playing badly and increased the rewards for winning.
It was always intense, but there is a new amplification, which even Mickelson is powerless to resist. “Benched” all day, Mickelson rushed out with ski gloves on to support the team. His coaching of Thomas suggested a fading veteran with ambitions to be captain soon.
Furyk’s pairing errors are unlikely to produce another mutiny – although Saturday nights are fertile ground for conflict. See Tom Watson’s reign for proof. Yet America will head out for the singles knowing accusations can be easily revived; that comfort and money are their measures of success.
They might reply by pointing out that Justin Rose won $10 million (£7.7 million) on Sunday but has been demonic again at this Ryder Cup. Yes, but Rose is from Europe – who are undefeated on home turf since 1993.
Captain America (Patrick Reed) was court-martialled after the morning session and dropped
Mass appeal: The crowds at this Ryder Cup have had an effect on the players