It’s simple math: The U.S. must earn 4 1/2 of 12 possible points during Sunday singles at Medinah to claim its second consecutive home Ryder Cup over the reeling Europeans.
After entering the day with a 5-3 lead the U.S. won the morning foursomes 3-1 to put the pressure squarely on Europe to win the afternoon session to make these matches more interesting. Europe continued to struggle on the greens but managed a 2-2 tie in afternoon fourballs.
“We haven’t lost a segment yet,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said. “We'll go tomorrow and try to keep that string going.”
The 10-6 U.S. lead is large, but it’s the same score that the Americans came back from to beat the Europeans in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline, marking the biggest comeback in cup history.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson started off the afternoon with an easy 5-and-4 victory over Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari. The U.S. made nine birdies in a 12-hole stretch, including four consecutive by Simpson on Nos. 8-11.
“We got in our rhythm,” Watson said. “I did the par 5s and he did the rest and that’s pretty much all we did.”
Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar held a lead for most of the back nine against Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie but made a hiccup bogey on No. 16 to square the match. But Johnson, who was even par for the first 16 holes, drained a 25-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th to help secure the match.
“It was probably the loudest roar I’ve ever heard,” Johnson said. “That was definitely, in that situation, one of the best putts I’ve ever made.”
Ian Poulter was the only bright-shining star for Europe. He moved his record to a spotless 3-0 paired with Rory McIlroy in a 1-up victory over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. McIlroy played poorly and contributed with only two birdies, but Poulter was possessed on the greens, making key putt after key putt during a five-birdie stretch on Nos. 14-18.
'Wow, five in a row,' Poulter said. 'It was awesome. I got world No. 1 by my side backing me up. It allows me to go ahead and hit some golf shots.'
Meanwhile, Woods is an imperfect 0-3 paired with Steve Stricker this week. They went 0-2 on Friday and both were benched for Saturday morning foursomes, it being the first time in Woods’ Ryder Cup career he hasn’t played in a session. The duo went out together fresh in the fourballs but were defeated by Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, 1 down.
In fairness to Woods, Stricker was no help in either fourball match. Woods had five birdies on the back nine Friday and lost to a hot Colsaerts. He made another five back-nine birdies Saturday to cut a 4-down deficit through nine holes to 1 down after 13. But Donald made a kick-in birdie on No. 17 that sent Team Europe to the home hole with the lead.