Coming into the second day of the 2012 Ryder Cup down 5-3, it was necessary that the Europeans come out with a huge performance on Saturday.
With Tiger Woods and partner Steve Stricker riding the bench for the early foursome matches, the morning seemed like the perfect opportunity to strike.
Early on, it looked like the Europeans would do just that. Ian Poulter and Justin Rose's 1-up defeat of Americans Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson gave Europe its second consecutive opening win and seemingly put the team in a position for a huge second day.
Playing in a highly contested match, Poulter and Rose won behind some sensational putting and the Americans' failure with the short stick.
Simpson was especially poor with the putter, missing a critical putt on hole No. 18 to give Europe a victory.
Nevertheless, the big story of the opening match was Poulter, who improved his career Ryder Cup record to 11-3 on Saturday and outwardly showed how much winning meant to him on almost every hole.
Nonetheless, the European momentum could not carry over, as Phil Mickelson and breakout star Keegan Bradley stole the show in the day's second match. Tying the most lopsided victory in Ryder Cup history, the Americans beat European opponents Lee Westwood and Luke Donald 7 and 6 with shocking ease.
The match was in little doubt almost from the opening hole, as Mickelson put a beautiful second shot within two feet of the hole. Westwood and Donald conceded No. 1, and the rout was on from there.
Though the Europeans did not go down without a fight, the remainder of the morning belonged to the United States. In the lead for most of the match, Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson defeated Sergio Garcia and Nicolas Colsaerts 2 and 1 behind a beautiful three-hole stretch between Nos. 11-13.
The Americans went 2 up on those holes and never looked back, as Garcia and Colsaerts failed to gather any real momentum.
The last foursome of the day was nothing short of an upset, as the United States' Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker defeated Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
In a rematch of Friday's closely contested match, Furyk and Snedeker played calm and collected golf, while the Europeans struggled throughout with consistency. Never a blowout, the Americans stayed in control throughout and came away with a 1-up victory.
That victory put the United States up 8-4 and left Europe with a ton of work to do if it hoped to have any real chance of mounting a comeback.
|Poulter/Rose||Team Europe, 1 up||Watson/Simpson|
|Westwood/Donald||Team USA, 7 & 6||Mickelson/Bradley|
|Colsaerts/Garcia||Team USA, 2 & 1||Dufner/Z. Johnson|
|McIlroy/McDowell||Team USA, 1 up|
Unfortunately for the Europeans, that comeback will have to wait for Sunday (if at all) because it did not happen in four-ball play.
The first match of four-ball play turned out to be an absolute thriller.
Following a benching for the early sessions of foursome play, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar battled the European pair of Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie for the entire 18 holes. No player on either side had a particularly great round, but it was a beautiful curling putt by Johnson on No. 17 that catalyzed the Americans' 1-up victory.
The second match of four-ball saw an absolutely sensational performance from Simpson, as he redeemed his struggles from earlier in the day. Carrying Watson on every hole except the par-fives, Simpson carded seven birdies on his ball alone and almost single-handedly beat the pair of Rose and Francesco Molinari 5 and 4.
Key to his dominant performance in the afternoon was Simpson's putter, which had betrayed him all morning long.
Down 10-4, the Europeans needed some clutch performances to even have the slightest chance at coming back, and the two late pairings delivered.
Garcia and Donald roared to an early lead, going 4 up through the ninth hole, and survived a vintage performance from Woods on the back nine to come out on top. Tiger birdied five of the final nine and brought he and Stricker back within one point headed to hole No. 18.
Set up with a relatively short putt to halve the match, Stricker's shot lipped off the left side of the cup and gave the Europeans a 1-up victory.
While Woods and Stricker were unable to complete their comeback for the Americans, Poulter and McIlroy pulled off a scintillating shocker against Dufner and Zach Johnson.
Down two points with six holes to play, Poulter caught fire once again, birdieing the final five holes of the match to bring Europe back. After Johnson holed a short birdie put on the 18th hole, Poulter was left with an opportunity of his own to secure the putt, and he nailed it.
Though things still seem bleak for Europe, the team still has to be riding relatively high after the last two matches of the day. A 8-4 showing in Sunday's singles competition would give the Europeans the 14 points necessary to win while matching the best comeback in Ryder Cup history.
|Colsaerts/Lawrie||Team USA, 1 up||D. Johnson/Kuchar|
|Rose/Molinari||Team USA, 5 & 4||Watson/Simpson|
|Garcia/Donald||Team Europe, 1 up||Woods/Stricker|
|McIlroy/Poulter||Team Europe, 1 up||Dufner/Z. Johnson|