Ryder Cup 2014 report: Europe awesome in the foursomes

Rose caps another afternoon to savour and sets the home team up for victory over the Americans once more

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The Independent Online

The rout is on. Europe stand four points from Ryder Cup nirvana. Only a miracle on a scale engineered by Jose-Maria Olazabal’s heroes at Medinah would be enough to save the United States. And since that has happened only once on foreign soil in more than 80 years, a lead of 10-6 has a conclusive look about it, American dreams to the contrary notwithstanding.

Once again a disappointing morning gave way to a glorious afternoon for the European golfers. Justin Rose stood tallest of all, holing a closing birdie for a half to stall the runaway train that was Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. In the fourballs, Rose was Europe’s morning glory alongside Henrik Stenson, slamming seven birdies in a record win over Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar.

It didn’t go all Rose’s way in the afternoon company of Martin Kaymer, but after falling a hole behind on the 17th  he did not flinch when asked to drill the emphatic response at the last to take his personal tally this week to 3.5 points.

“I was obviously in a great zone this morning and played great, made everything I looked at. This afternoon was more of a battle,” Rose said. “Foursomes is a tough format sometimes. Martin and I were making some unforced errors. It was a match nobody  really wanted to take by the scruff of the neck and win it.

“Martin actually turned around my mindset. He said, ‘Come on, we deserve half a point out of this match.’ That’s what picked me up playing 18. To have that opportunity to pull out the half, that makes the day feel great and keeps the momentum for us going tomorrow.”

 

To grind American noses deeper into the dirt, Rory McIlory finally touched the heights in his restored partnership with Sergio Garcia to deliver his first win of the match. The world No 1 has ground out the hard yards this week, playing in each of the four sessions.

He was involved in a bruising morning fourball battle with Ian Poulter that was halved against Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker. A quick start with Garcia in the afternoon ensured an easier passage. The Europeans won the first hole with a par and the second with a birdie to establish early control against Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan and were never caught.

In plummeting temperatures late in the day, the course became longer and the golf less attractive. But this was as good as the stellar pair have played and McIlory was delighted to claim that first win on the 16th green.

“It is just great to put a point on the board for Europe and edge us closer to trying to retain this Cup,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been very lucky with my partners over the years:  G-Mac is obviously a close friend of mine, and then Poults, who I teamed up with again today, and obviously this man three times this week. He’s awesome to be around.”

The feeling was mutual. “I would love to take credit for it but I think Rory beat three guys today in foursomes,” Garcia said. “It’s not easy to do. I was not at my best, but he calmed me down a lot. I started a little bit nervously, but he played amazingly.”

At the top and bottom of the order, Europe bookended a brilliant afternoon with stellar displays. Lee Westwood, aided again by Jamie Donaldson, contributed his 23rd Ryder Cup point to surpass the achievement of the great Seve Ballesteros. Only Sir Nick Faldo stands between Westwood and the record after the two-up victory over Zach Johnson and Kuchar.

In the last group of the day, Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell had the cigars out for most of the match after claiming four of the first six holes against Walker and Fowler.

“Mark my words,” said McDowell after the pair delivered their first point on Friday,. “This man (pointing at his partner) will be the next great player in European golf.”

That is how it looked as Dubuisson lasered pin after pin to land a bevy of unanswerable blows yesterday. It proved a match too far for the American pair, who were preferred by captain Tom Watson over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, who did not appear in the morning fourballs. “I wanted to ride that horse,” he said of a pairing that had gone undefeated in three outings.

McDowell said: “It’s a  dream start when you go three, four up against a pairing like this one. You really just have to try and keep the pedal to the metal. It’s just been so much fun playing alongside this man the last two days.

“I really can’t say enough about how talented this kid is, how easy it is to play alongside him. He might be the best player I’ve played with since Rory McIlroy, and that’s saying a lot.”

It takes a lot to shiver the timbers of Rose, but Spieth and Reed have it all going on, assuming the “deadly double act” mantle relinquished by Mickelson and Bradley. Captain Watson copped heavy criticism for leaving them out of the foursomes on Friday afternoon. There was not a chance of that happening a second time after the 5&3 dismantling of Kaymer and Thomas Bjorn in the morning.

Just as the Europeans did then, the Americans fell behind early with a bogey at the third hole. But once the zeitgeist was engaged, back they came, taking three of the next four holes to establish a two-hole advantage.

A short miss by Reed at the ninth hole let Europe back in the contest and might have upset the psyche in the context of what was happening elsewhere, but up he stepped at the short 10th to answer Kaymer’s brilliant tee shot with a laser beam of his own to ten feet. Spieth knocked it in, of course, upping the ante for Rose, who missed from six feet. 

The two-hole deficit stood until the 12th, won by a European par. A tap-in par at the 15th was enough to draw the pairings level but young American legs and arms were tiring and, after they surrendered the initiative again at the penultimate hole, fate called out to Rose one last time.

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