Late strikes keep Europe in the hunt

9/30/2012 12:32:12 AM
Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter (Getty Images)
A remarkable display from Ian Poulter saw Europe claim the last two points of the day and restrict America to a 10-6 Ryder Cup lead ahead of Sunday’s singles in Chicago.

Trailing 5-3 overnight, only Poulter and Justin Rose picked up point for José María Olazábal’s men in the morning foursomes and when Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson beat Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari and Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar edged out Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie America led 10-4.

With the American comeback from 10-6 down at Brookline in 1999 the biggest deficit overturned on the final day, Europe’s grip on the trophy looked tenuous at best.

However, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald held off a thrilling comeback from Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods to win on the final green, before Poulter took centre stage.

Playing with World Number One Rory McIlroy, the Englishman holed a string of nerve-jangling putts to birdie the last five holes of the Medinah layout and steal a one-up victory over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson – his ten footer at the last greeted by a huge roar.

The Englishman, winner of all his three games so far, now has a phenomenal record of 11 wins and only three defeats in his cup career.

Poulter said: "We needed to get something going. We had to make birdies and wow - five in a row. It was awesome.

"I had the World Number One backing me up and it allowed me to hit some shots."

They had been two down with six to play and McIlroy added: "At least I had a little bit to do with it, making birdie at 13, but when Ian gets that look in his eyes it's really impressive.

"It was incredible making that run like we did."

Europe still require a slice of history to keep the trophy this side of the Atlantic -since the competition began in 1927, the United States have never lost more than a two point advantage on the last day.

American Captain Davis Love said of losing the last two games of the day: "We're not disappointed - our guys all played real well.

"We lipped out a bunch of putts. We've not lost a segment (session) yet."

They took the morning foursomes 3-1 to make it 8-4 and the fourballs were shared 2-2.

Olazábal stated: "Those last two matches were massive. It gives us a chance - it's been done in the past.

"Things have not gone our way, especially on the greens, but I believe momentum will come our way. Why not tomorrow?"

The gap was six points when Masters Tournament champion Watson and US Open winner Simpson overran Rose and Molinari 5 and 4 and Dustin Johnson’s 20 foot putt on the 17th then proved crucial.

Lawrie won the 16th to square it after Europe had been two down early on, but Johnson raised the roof at the next and the 18th was halved in par.

"It's probably the loudest roar I've ever heard, especially in this situation," Johnson said.

"My partner had been carrying me all day pretty much, but that was one of the best putts I've ever made."

Poulter and McIlroy were two down with six to play, but McIlroy's 15 footer at the 13th set up a thrilling climax.

Poulter got up and down from bunkers at the next two, first for a half and then for a win to level the match, rolled in a 15 footer to take the 16th and, with Zach Johnson close, made no mistake from nine feet for a half in birdie twos at the short 17th.

Dufner hit the best approach of the four into the last, just three feet from the flag, and holing it - he had the chance to go first because of where his partner was - Poulter had to make his from more than three times as far.

That he did adds another chapter to an amazing cup story for one of Olazábal's two wild cards.

He won his last four games in the 2008 defeat, three out of four in the 2010 win and now his first three this week.

Olazábal packed the top order with form players in a bid to try and create a Blue Sunday early on in the singles.

Donald faces Watson in the opening rubber, with Poulter facing Simpson in game two and McIlroy looking to end Bradley’s unbeaten run in the third tie.

The longest hitters on either side meet in the sixth game when Colsaerts gets a chance of revenge on Dustin Johnson, while Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari meet in a repeat of their 2010 singles clash in the final game.

“Obviously we couldn't hide anything,” said Olazábal. “We are trailing by four points. We have to put the players that are playing well out there. 

“If we want to win this match, we have to take their big guns down. That's what they've done, they've put all the players that have been playing really well this week up there, and hopefully tomorrow will be a different day.” 

Draw for the final day singles in The Ryder Cup on Sunday:

11.03am Bubba Watson v Luke Donald
11.14am Webb Simpson v Ian Poulter
11.25am Keegan Bradley v Rory McIlroy
11.36am Phil Mickelson v Justin Rose
11.47am Brandt Snedeker v Paul Lawrie
11.58am Dustin Johnson v Nicolas Colsaerts
12.09pm Zach Johnson v Graeme McDowell
12.20pm Jim Furyk v Sergio Garcia
12.31pm Jason Dufner v Peter Hanson
12.42pm Matt Kuchar v Lee Westwood
12.53pm Steve Stricker v Martin Kaymer
1.04pm Tiger Woods v Francesco Molinari