Paris is known as the “City of Light” but the USA is facing dark times after Europe edged to a commanding 10-6 lead heading into Sunday’s final singles session at the Ryder Cup.
The home side was the underdog coming into the colourful, raucous team event but took a stranglehold with a 3-1 victory in the fourballs and two foursomes wins on a sizzling Saturday at Le Golf National outside the French capital.
Captain Thomas Bjorn’s men need another 4½ points from the 12 singles matches to win back the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2014 and clinch a seventh victory in nine editions of the biennial clash.
The USA, which needs 14 points to retain the Cup, has not won on European soil since 1993 and will need to emulate Europe’s remarkable 10-6 comeback at Medinah in 2012, or its own resurgence from 10-6 down at Brookline in 1999.
On Bjorn’s Ryder Cup debut as a player in 1997, Europe led 10½-5½ heading into the singles, only holding on for a narrow 14½-13½ win.
“There’s plenty of examples of these scorelines not meaning a lot and there’s 12 singles to play,” Bjorn told Sky Sports. “We’ll just keep going hard. It’s a completely different game and it’s a lot of refocusing.
“We need every single man to do their bit and really play hard and be determined to win this Cup back. It can go any way but we’re really, really, really happy with how it’s gone these first two days.”
When the order for the singles was announced, it paired Europe’s Rory McIlroy against American Justin Thomas in the first match. Tiger Woods will face Spain’s Jon Rahm in the fourth group.
“We need to start hot and we need to be the better team. No bones about it,” said USA captain Jim Furyk, who described the 2012 loss in which he played as “one of my worst nightmares in golf.”
After USA’s strong start, Europe won eight straight matches, beginning with the final game Friday morning, to turn the tide and surge into a 8-4 lead at the midpoint of Saturday.
The decisive run included an historic 4-0 whitewash in Friday’s afternoon session, Europe’s first ever in foursomes.
Europe was inspired by the stunning partnership of Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and Italy’s British Open champion Francesco Molinari, who were unbeaten in all four matches together, including a third victory over Woods — this time with Bryson DeChambeau — in Saturday afternoon’s foursomes.
The last pair to go unbeaten in its four matches was Americans Lanny Wadkins and Larry Mize in 1979. No European pair has ever done it.
Fleetwood, who was second in the US Open in June, also became the first European rookie to win all four of his opening matches. Both he and Molinari, playing in his third Ryder Cup, can become the first Europeans to remain unbeaten in all five matches Sunday.
“I’m a little bit emotional,” Fleetwood told Sky Sports. “To make a piece of history together is very special. I’m just glad we’ve done our job for the team.”
‘Still got a chance’
Woods, who sealed a remarkable return from injury with a first PGA Tour win for five years last week, went through the team portion of the Ryder Cup without gaining as much as half a point.
The duo of world No.2 Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson added Europe’s other point Saturday afternoon with victory against top-ranked Dustin Johnson and 2018 double major champion Brooks Koepka as the USA struggled for a lifeline.
The defending champion scored a crucial point through Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson’s 5&4 win against Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren before Jordan Spieth and Thomas added a second with a 4&3 victory against McIlroy and Ian Poulter.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve still got a chance,” Simpson told Sky Sports.
Leading 5-3 on a piercing, chilly Saturday morning, Europe edged further ahead with a 2&1 victory from McIlroy and Garcia against Koepka and Tony Finau.
English pair Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton downed Johnson and Rickie Fowler 3&2, while Fleetwood and Molinari beat Woods and the out-of-sorts Patrick Reed 4&3.
Only Thomas and Spieth were able to add to the USA’s account with a 2&1 victory over Poulter and Spanish rookie Rahm. Europe’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Phi Mickelson for USA both sat out Saturday completely.