|Ryder Cup 2016|
|Venue: Hazeltine National, Minnesota Dates: 30 September – 2 October|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, highlights on BBC Two plus live text commentary on the BBC Sport website. Details.|
The United States will take a three-point advantage into the final day of the Ryder Cup, leading Europe 9½-6½.
Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters briefly tied the scores by winning the first of the Saturday afternoon fourballs.
But the Americans restored their advantage through victories for Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, and Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar at Hazeltine.
Lee Westwood missed from three feet on the 18th when he and Danny Willett had the chance for a half.
The US need five points from Sunday’s 12 singles matches to win the Ryder Cup for only the third time in 23 years, while Europe need 7½ to retain the trophy they have held since 2010.
Europe will no doubt draw on their experience at Medinah four years ago, when they won despite trailing 10-6 after two days, but then an Ian Poulter-inspired Europe had built up a head of steam going into the final day.
Here, the US rebounded from taking only 2½ points from the previous nine to win the final three fourballs matches on a glorious afternoon in Minnesota.
That, coupled with Westwood’s miss – which would have cut the deficit from three to two points – has left the home side with the momentum.
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Europe baited by baying crowd
The image of Northern Irishman McIlroy bowing to the gallery was the abiding symbol of Europe’s Friday fightback, and baiting from the home crowd – he asked for one spectator to be ejected – drew howls and fist-pumps from the world number three on Saturday.
However, he was reliant on composed rookie Pieters, who ensured their partnership took three points from three matches together.
Back-to-back birdies from the Belgian put Europe four up with four to play and, even though the US won the next two holes, Pieters sealed a 3&1 win on the 17th.
That point ensured Europe had taken six and-a-half points from nine, but they were only briefly level as Mickelson and Kuchar outclassed Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, who was recalled despite a poor first day.
While Garcia in particular missed opportunities on the green, Mickelson holed from 25 feet on the 10th and Kuchar drained a mammoth putt on 13.
Although Europe managed to extend the match to the 17th, Mickelson held his nerve to edge the US to a 2&1 victory.
If McIlroy was the man to lead European cheers, then Reed provided encouragement to the home fans – not that it was needed.
Any suspicion that his formidable partnership with Spieth had crumbled after they gave away a four-hole lead in the morning foursomes was dismissed when Reed went five under between holes five and eight, including pitching in for an eagle at the par-five sixth.
When Rose and Stenson began to hole putts, they cut the deficit to one, but the fired-up Reed ensured there would be no repeat capitulation with birdies on 14 and 15 as the point was sealed 2&1.
With Europe set to be behind when the singles started regardless, Darren Clarke’s men badly needed any sort of score from Westwood and Willett’s tight tussle with JB Holmes and Ryan Moore.
Westwood, like Kaymer, was a captain’s pick who struggled on day one, but looked to be proving his worth with delightful putts on seven and 10.
But, from all-square after 16, both Englishmen made bogey on the par-three 17th, only for a half to be seemingly guaranteed by Westwood’s wonderful approach to the last. Then came the awful miss and a one-hole defeat.
‘I’m ashamed for my girlfriend’ – what they said
Europe’s Sergio Garcia speaking to BBC Radio 5 live about the atmosphere: “It has been quite poor. 85% of people are great. I love playing in America and my girlfriend is American, but the 15% that is really bad makes them look bad, and I feel ashamed for my girlfriend. But it is what it is.”
Europe’s Rory McIlroy: “Someone just said a few derogatory things I thought were over the line. I tried to get him removed. It fuelled me a lot. The more they shouted, the better we played, so I hope they shout at us all day tomorrow.”
Europe captain Darren Clarke: “We’re going to have to work hard tomorrow. It’s been done before from a worse position. We need to believe in ourselves. There is a precedent.”
USA captain Davis Love: “I kept wanting to take Jordan and Patrick out to rest. But Tiger has been watching them and he said ‘no, no, no, don’t take my guys out’. It worked and I’m going to put them to bed early.”
USA’s Patrick Reed: “We had a huge lead early in the first match and let it slip and I was not going to let that happen again. I live for this kind of stuff – let’s go some more. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Europe’s Danny Willett: “It doesn’t change the job in hand. The job is to win all 12 tomorrow. No one is on 14½ yet.”
BBC chief sports writer Tom Fordyce:
It was a chastening late afternoon for Darren Clarke after his team had done so well to claw themselves back across the previous two sessions.
At one point midway through Saturday’s fourballs a European lead going into the singles looked possible; even at the death it appeared they might be just two points down, a tough ask but considerably better than Clarke could have hoped for after losing 4-0 on the first morning.
But those two short putts missed by his friend and wildcard pick Lee Westwood both raised questions over the selection and gave the US – inspired by the brilliant Patrick Reed – a stranglehold that they are unlikely to release.
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