Amer­i­cans take 3-point lead at Ry­der Cup

Reed puts team on brink of vic­tory

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

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

Reed and his bullish at­ti­tude was at his 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 vic­tory in the fi­nal match of an­other rau­cous and at times rude af­ter­noon at Hazel­tine.

The Amer­i­cans had a 9 1/2-6 1/2 lead over Europe. They need to win only five of 12 sin­gles matches to re­claim the Ry­der Cup for the first time since 2008, and only the third time over the last two decades.

Europe trudged off the course with only re­cent his­tory on its side.

It trailed by a slightly larger mar­gin, 10-6, four years ago at Me­d­i­nah with Davis Love III at the helm of the U.S. team 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 to­mor­row, as we’ve done be­fore from a worse deficit,” Euro­pean cap­tain Dar­ren Clarke said.

Most painful for Clarke was watch­ing his best friend and cap­tain’s pick, Lee West­wood, miss cru­cial short putts on the back nine in the only match that reached the 18th hole. West­wood and Masters cham­pion Danny Wil­lett never trailed un­til they both made bo­gey on the par-3 17th.

West­wood missed a 5-foot par putt to stay all square, and then with a chance to earn a half-point for Europe, he badly missed a 2-foot birdie on the fi­nal hole to give J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore a 1-up vic­tory.

Phil Mick­el­son, in his 11th straight Ry­der Cup, showed he can de­liver on the golf course as well as he can run a task force meet­ing. Lefty pro­duced timely wedges and key putts down the stretch as he and Matt Kuchar com­bined for nine birdies in a 2-and-1 vic­tory over Ser­gio Gar­cia and Martin Kaymer.

The fi­nal hour turned solid red on the score­board, enough to over­come the un­de­feated tan­dem of Rory McIl­roy and Thomas Pi­eters. They won all three matches, and they were never more dy­namic than four­balls when they were 11-un­der par through 17 holes. Pi­eters drove the par-4 fifth green and made ea­gle, and McIl­roy stared down the hos­tile Amer­i­can crowd with ev­ery birdie that left Dustin John­son and Brooks Koepka no chance.

“It’s a tough en­vi­ron­ment for us to come and play in. We ex­pect that,” McIl­roy said. “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 to­mor­row.”

Europe will need all the help it can get. Ian Poul­ter, who sparked Europe to its “Mir­a­cle at Me­d­i­nah” in 2012, is only at Hazel­tine as an as­sis­tant cap­tain. McIl­roy and Pi­eters have shoul­dered a big load, and they need con­tri­bu­tions on Sun­day from a team that fea­tures six rook­ies.

“We’re one closer than we were at Me­d­i­nah,” Rose said. “It’s go­ing to be a mon­u­men­tal chal­lenge to­mor­row. We’re go­ing to put out our lineup and we’re go­ing to look at each other manto-man to­mor­row. It’s go­ing to be eye­ball-to-eye­ball on the first tee, no part­ners, no friends out there on the golf course. Just go out and try to put a point on the board. That’s ev­ery­body’s mis­sion.”

Rose and Sten­son had a front-row seat to an ex­hi­bi­tion by Reed, who whipped the crowd into even more of a frenzy than it al­ready showed. One down af­ter four holes, Reed played the next four holes in 5 un­der, win­ning them all for a 3-up lead.

Spi­eth, who started the year at No. 1 in the world, was along for the ride

“I know he has that in him,” Spi­eth said. “We’ve all seen it be­fore. He’s Cap­tain Amer­ica for us.”

Their vic­tory was even more im­por­tant con­sid­er­ing they let a sure point get away in four­somes Satur­day morn­ing, lead­ing 4 up with six holes to play un­til Gar­cia and Rafa Cabr­era Bello ral­lied to earn a halve. There were a few ner­vous mo­ments when Rose and Sten­son cut the deficit to 1 down af­ter 13 holes, only for Reed — who else? — to pour in back-to-back birdies for the match to go dormie.

Reed and Spi­eth are the only Amer­i­cans who have yet to sit out, go­ing away from Love’s model at Me­d­i­nah to make sure ev­ery­one was rested.

Europe has five play­ers who will play ev­ery match — McIl­roy, Pi­eters, Gar­cia, Sten­son and Rose. It likely will need points from all of them, and a few more.

CHRIS CARL­SON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

United States’ Pa­trick Reed re­acts with team­mate United States’ Jor­dan Spi­eth as he makes his put to win the match on the 15th hole dur­ing a four-ball match at the Ry­der Cup golf tour­na­ment Satur­day at Hazel­tine Na­tional Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

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