CHICAGO, Illinois (AFP) –
The stage was set for the United States to take back the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on Sunday as Davis Love’s men carried a handsome 10-6 lead into the closing 12 singles.
That meant that the Americans needed just 4 1/2 points to ensure they keep the small, golden trophy for the next two years.
Jose Maria Olazabal’s team need to win eight out of the 12 matches to reach 14 points which would result in the contest being tied and Europe, as holders, keeping the cup.
On the face of it the task looks beyond the Europeans who have been largely outplayed, outthought and outscored over two days of foursomes and fourballs action.
No European team has ever come back from four points down at the start of the final day’s play to win the cup and no US team has ever lost more than a two-point advantage on the final day since the competition began in 1927.
Still, the memory of 1999 at Brookline, Massachusetts remains vivid when the Americans overturned a 6-10 deficit to win by a solitary point.
But that was on home soil with home support. This time Europe need to pull it off on foreign soil.
Both captains were singing from the same songsheet going into the rush of singles that brings down the curtain on the Ryder Cup week – “it’s not all over yet.”
Olazabal has evoked the never-say-die attitude of his great friend and playing partner Seve Ballesteros and he has confirmed that the European players will be clad in the dark blue and white outfit that the Spaniard, who died from a brain tumour in May of last year, favoured.
His message to his team ? – “There is nothing to hide guys. Let’s go out there and play your socks off.”
Love has said he will continue to promote a relaxed and free-wheeling mindset among his players.
“I’m going to stress to them – all you can do is just go and win your match and you can’t think about the outcome of the day and what the other guys are doing,” he said.
US Open champion Webb Simpson follows against firebrand Ian Poulter who has won three points out of three so far and installed himself as the life-and-soul of the European team.
Exciting rookie Keegan Bradley, who is also unbeaten, then takes on world No.1 Rory McIlroy, followed by the veteran Phil Mickelson up against Justin Rose.
Tiger Woods, who has yet to pick up a point after three matches, is the last man out for the United States, taking on Francesco Molinari.
But whether his contribution will matter at all at the end of the day will depend on whether Europe’s big guns can unleash a barrage of winning birdies earlier in the day.