Ryder Cup 2021: USA take 11-5 lead over Europe into Sunday singles

3 weeks ago 21

In search of a miracle after another landslide defeat in the morning session, Europe summoned all their remaining strength on Saturday afternoon at Whistling Straits, but their wearied hopes of retaining the Ryder Cup are in ruins.

There can be no dodging that dispiriting fate, even if the manner of their performance in the fourballs will provide a fragile consolation as Padraig Harrington’s side fought valiantly to take two points from the session. In truth, they had probably required a whitewash just to stand a chance in the singles, but those matches are now a matter of mere formality. The USA lead 11-5 and the antics of Justin Thomas, who drunk a beer in front of a raucous crowd in Wisconsin’s early afternoon, signalled the beginning of the celebrations that will continue late into Sunday evening.

At least, Europe can now take some valour from this defeat. Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, victorious again in the morning’s foursomes, remained together in the afternoon and took down Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth in stunning style. Shane Lowry carried an erratic Tyrrell Hatton for much of their match against Tony Finau and Harris English and the Irishman held his nerve in remarkable fashion to drain a tricky 10ft putt on the 18th to ensure Europe of a full point.

Their celebrations were emphatic, a portrait of perseverance in the jaws of defeat, but they were only punctuating moments and too many of Harrington’s leaders left him short this week. None more so than Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, who were dropped for the morning session and then utterly trounced by the formidable pairing of Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa in the afternoon, with McIlroy failing to make a single birdie. In each of his three matches, the Northern Irishman has failed to make it to the 16th tee and seemed a spectre of his old self. In the end, it has left Europe short of spirit, too.

There were still the vaguest remnants of hope remaining as Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland exchanged the ascendancy in a volatile final match against Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler. Victory would have evoked memories of Medinah and left the score at 10-6. But this US team is unburdened by the scars of the past and their talent and brute force told down the stretch, winning three holes in succession to condemn Europe to an early demise.

Ultimately, that has been the tale of the week. The strongest US team in history have stayed true to that mantle and, while Europe were at least able to halve the session, they’ve never come close to breaking the stranglehold. The stage is set for Sunday, but it will be a procession rather than a shootout.

It was the final hour of the vital morning session that had been Europe’s death sentence. They had begun the day staring into the barrel of a 6-2 deficit and urgently needed to claw back the tide on Lake Michigan. But while the foursomes delivered flickers of a fightback, Harrington’s pairings soon faded and were ultimately defeated in three of four matches. That sole point came courtesy of Europe’s inspired Spanish duo again, with Garcia and Rahm impassioned and irrepressible, recovering from a dreadful start to defeat Koepka and Daniel Berger 3&1.

By the time that match was settled, though, it had already become clear that Europe were teetering on the precipice. Johnson and Morikawa had started in a blaze of birdies and fended off Paul Casey and 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 stave off.

It left the score at 9-3 in the US’s favour heading into the afternoon and Harrington must have already feared that any hope of a heroic comeback had been lost. And as the sun set over Wisconsin on Saturday evening, that much was confirmed. There is not even a sliver of light for Europe to cling to, with the US requiring just three and a half points to seal their victory. It is inevitable and no less than what they deserve.

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