Ryder Cup 2021: USA all but condemn Europe to defeat with dominant foursomes display

Team USA showed their quality once again to win the session and extend their commanding lead

Tom Kershaw
Saturday 25 September 2021 18:29
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"It's a great start" USA Team captain Stricker on the Opening day performance in Ryder Cup

The final hour of a vital third session at Whistling Straits all but ended in a death sentence for Europe’s defence of the Ryder Cup and even those clinging to the most delirious optimism can harbour little hope of a comeback.

Europe had begun the day staring into the barrel of a 6-2 deficit and, although the foursomes delivered valiant fightbacks and flickers of life for Padraig Harrington’s beleaguered team, they were ultimately and, in the end, comprehensively defeated 3-1 in the morning session. That sole point came courtesy of Europe’s inspired Spanish duo again, with Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm leading from the front, impassioned and irrepressible, to secure a point so urgently required.

By the time that match was settled, though, it had already become clear that Europe were standing at the foot of a landslide again. Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa were formidable again and fended off Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton’s late resurgence. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth recovered from a shaky start to outclass Bernd Wiesberger and Viktor Hovland, while Xander Schauffle and Patrick Cantlay were a supreme partnership once again, their quality far too great for Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood to withstand.

It left the score at 9-3 in the US’s favour and Harrington must fear what further damage will be inflicted in the afternoon’s fourballs. There are 16 points still to be won, but Steve Stricker’s side requires just 5.5 of them to ensure victory. The sun reflected over Lake Michigan on a perfect afternoon in Wisconsin, but for Europe, it is hard to see any sliver of light.

Harrington had made the controversial decision to drop Rory McIlroy from his pairings last night, and that decision will no doubt come under further scrutiny now. There was no change at the top, though, as Garcia and Rahm led from the front. The Spanish heartbeat of this European side, they were supposed to be the early tone-setters, but instead quickly found themselves drowning in the cheers of the home crowd, the first three holes in succession lost to leave Europe in danger of being swept away.

There was little joy to be reaped from what followed either, as Johnson and Morikawa picked up where they left off and took a similarly commanding lead over Casey and Hatton, owing much to Johnson’s spectacular wedge play.

Ryder Cups are won on quality, but they can turn on momentum and, at the ninth hole, Garcia produced a moment of genius that briefly swung the balance of the session in Europe’s favour when he chipped in for birdie at the ninth. Having trailed by three shots, they made the turn on level terms and their teammates managed to get a perch on that foothold. Further back, Hovland and Wiesberger battled into an ascendancy over Thomas and Spieth, while Westwood and Fitzpatrick made inroads into Cantlay and Schauffele’s previously impermeable defence.

Before long, even Casey was able to stir the possibility of an unimaginable comeback, holing out from the fairway at the 14th to reduce Morikawa and Johnson’s lead to just one. Europe had momentum for the first time and Garica and Rahm remained resolute out in front, holding off Koepka, who engaged in an ugly conversation with two rules officials at the 15th. “If I break my wrist, it’s f****** on you,” he said, after being refused a free drop. The point was confirmed at the following hole, thanks to Garcia’s sublime three-wood into the long par-5, but there would be precious little time to celebrate.

The fragile leads Europe had gained in the three remaining matches had been shattered. The class of the Americans was simply too much and, with Hatton’s ball-striking wildly erratic, Morikawa’s metronomic iron-play pushed the US to their first point of the session, the victory sealed with a pinpoint tee-shot at the par-3 17th.

Soon, one cheer was blurring into another. Schauffele and Cantlay couldn’t recreate quite the same magnificence that drummed Poulter and McIlroy into submission yesterday, but they still had plenty to grind down Westwood and Fitzpatrick, who both failed to contribute a point in 2016, too. A pinpoint approach by Schauffele at the 15th was met with a wild roar and sent the pair of decorated rookies to the following tee with victory all but inevitable.

Hovland and Wiesberger had played brilliantly on the front nine but faded at the turn, the former missing two short putts, and Thomas produced a moment of sublime magic that matched Garcia’s approach into the 16th. It secured the crowd favourite pair a dormie lead and, although their victory wasn’t completed until the 18th, that mattered very little. The US have taken what is almost certainly an insurmountable lead and Thomas knew it, too, drinking a beer to the delight of the grandstand on the first tee before the afternoon fourballs began. For them, the party has well and truly begun.

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