Ry­der Cup his­tory says US can win, but it won’t

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - GOLF -

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The U.S. needs a her­culean ef­fort Sun­day if it’s to re­tain the Ry­der Cup.

It’s not go­ing to hap­pen.

Not the way the first two days have gone at Le Golf Na­tional, it isn’t.

Pa­trick Reed, aka Cap­tain Amer­ica, hasn’t raged once. The mighty Tiger Woods has stepped to the plate three times and lost all three times. Phil Mick­el­son played so poorly in his lone ap­pear­ance Fri­day that he was benched Satur­day and re­duced to hav­ing his belly rubbed for good luck by Justin Thomas and Jor­dan Spi­eth, who have been two of the few bright U.S. stars.

The list goes on and on, but you get the point.

“We’ve got some work to do to­mor­row,” said Woods, who won last week­end’s Tour Cham­pi­onship but has looked tired and de­jected and in need of a good night’s sleep. “Hope­fully we can get off to a quick start and get up in some of these matches and turn the tide.

“Ev­ery­thing feels pretty good. Just pretty (ticked) off, the fact that I lost three matches, and didn’t feel like I played poorly. That’s the frus­trat­ing thing about match play. We can play well, and noth­ing can hap­pen.”

Over­all, the team hasn’t played well and not much has hap­pened. Europe has had all the mojo since trail­ing 3-0 Fri­day morn­ing, win­ning each day 5-3 and win­ning a Ry­der Cup record-ty­ing eight con­sec­u­tive matches to build up a sig­nif­i­cant 10-6 lead.

But it’s not in­sur­mount­able.

In 1999, then-U.S. cap­tain Ben Cren­shaw said, “I’ve got a feel­ing,” when his troops trailed 10-6 go­ing into the fi­nal day, then watched them storm back to win the Ry­der Cup. But that con­tro­ver­sial match was played in front of an over-the-top, eti­quette-chal­lenged home crowd at Brook­line in Bos­ton. And Europe was a very young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced team.

The U.S. won’t find ei­ther at Le Golf Na­tional.

While the USA’s fire­power has fiz­zled, Europe’s has siz­zled, es­pe­cially from the likes of Ry­der Cup vet­er­ans Justin Rose, Ser­gio Gar­cia, Ian Poul­ter, Paul Casey, Hen­rik Sten­son and Rory McIl­roy and the un­de­feated duo of Francesco Moli­nari and Tommy Fleet­wood. Moli­nari and Fleet­wood be­came the first Euro­pean team to go 4-0 in a Ry­der Cup. Three of those wins came against Woods.

Europe, not the U.S., is the only team to come back from a four-point, last-day deficit on for­eign soil to win. In 2012 at Me­d­i­nah, north of Chicago, then-cap­tain Jose Maria Olaz­a­bal said, “Be­lieve,” and then watched his squad storm to vic­tory.

Rose was on that team, as was McIl­roy, Gar­cia, Moli­nari and Poul­ter. You can be sure they will be in the ears of their team­mates Satur­day night in the team room re­mind­ing them that what seems im­pos­si­ble is pos­si­ble, so com­pla­cency bet­ter not get to the first tee.

Four Amer­i­can play­ers, in­clud­ing Woods and Mick­el­son, as well as U.S. cap­tain Jim Fuyrk, were on that 2012 team, so they know it’s pos­si­ble. They, too, will be in the ears of their team­mates in the team room.

The U.S. could also per­haps latch on to this lit­tle nugget — Europe won the last two matches on Satur­day in 2012 to gain mo­men­tum head­ing into Sun­day. The U.S. won the last two matches on Satur­day to cut the deficit to 10-6.

But where once the U.S. was a for­gone con­clu­sion to win the sin­gles ses­sion, the Amer­i­cans can no longer bank on a Sun­day res­cue as Europe has won in sin­gles five of the last eight play­ings of the Ry­der Cup.

The U.S. has to win early and of­ten in the 12 sin­gles matches.

“Early wins go a long way to­mor­row,” Spi­eth said.

“Any­thing can hap­pen,” U.S. Open and PGA cham­pion Brooks Koepka said. “We’ve got a few guys that are play­ing well, and you just need to try to find some mo­ti­va­tion, some mo­men­tum, any­thing you can to re­ally build on.”

FRANCK FIFE/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Europe’s English golfer Tommy Fleet­wood re­acts dur­ing his four­somes match on Satur­day in the 42nd Ry­der Cup at Le Golf Na­tional. Fleet­wood and team­mate Francesco Moli­nari are 4-0 after play Fri­day and Satur­day.

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