Ryder Cup 2016 Day 2: USA seize advantage at Hazeltine

Ryder Cup 2016 Day 2: USA seize advantage at Hazeltine

The USA lead by three points overnight into Sunday's singles after seizing the advantage on the final hour of play, during a dramatic second day at Hazeltine

Neil Leverett

The USA took a huge step in regaining the Ryder Cup after winning three points out of four in the afternoon's fourballs at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Minnesota.

Davis Love III's side lead by three points over Europe into Sunday's singles, after ruthlessly seizing the advantage over the final hour of play.

Europe need to take seven and a half points out of twelve on the final day of competition, if they are to retain their crown.

Europe closed the gap in foursomes

After Sergio Garcia and rookie Rafa Cabrera-Bello's heroics for Europe in Saturday's foursomes, the word momentum was being bandied about as freely as birdies were becoming on the Minnesota course. For once though, the cliché was appropriate. 

Garcia and Cabrera-Bello came pulled back four shots over the final five (photo:getty)
Garcia and Cabrera-Bello came pulled back four shots over the final five (photo:getty)

The Spanish duo came from four shots down with five to play, to go to take an extraordinary half versus Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, in the final match of the morning. After a whitewash 24 hours before, the holders had reduced the deficit to just a single point.

With a heavy body blow taken by the USA, could the Europeans take their huge fillip into the afternoon's fourballs?

Blue dominant early on

In the first match, Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters continued their impressive partnership after sweeping aside Reed and Spieth on Friday. The Belgian holed a 15-foot eagle putt on the fifth to put blue on the board early, two up against Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.  

Similarly, the veteran pairing of Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose went one up at the first, but were pinned back after an errant putt from the Englishman saw Reed and Spieth - in their fourth straight game together - go to all square at five.

The American's only real advantage had Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar in control versus Garcia and an out-of-sorts Martin Kaymer. 

McIlroy was playing his vintage game to establish a sizeable lead (photo:getty)
McIlroy was playing his vintage game to establish a sizeable lead (photo:getty)

With the much maligned Lee Westwood holing a monster at the seventh, he and his number two Danny Willett held a shot lead over JB Holmes and Ryan Moore. McIlroy continued to play like a man possessed. The man from Holywood and Pieters were four up after nine. 

Reed holed out from the fairway at the sixth (photo:getty)
Reed holed out from the fairway at the sixth (photo:getty)

In the final match with the scores all square however, Reed's pitch shot into the sixth screwed back into the cup, as the Hazeltine grandstands erupted. The Texan then hit back-to-back birdies as America had turned the tide to go three up. At the turn, the other two matches were firmly in the balance.

Matches flip-flop on back nine

Back in the opening tie, as Koepka and Johnson began to pull the scores back in their match, Pieters hit two birdies in a row to re-establish the four short margin for the European duo.

Johnson kept the game alive at 15 and after McIlroy hooked his approach at 16 into the water, Koepka made a four to take the match down the 17th. It was a forlorn effort however after both Americans failed to birdie, Pieters holed out to win 3&1, to tie the overall scores at six and half a piece.

Kuchar holed a 50 ft putt across the 13th green (photo:getty)
Kuchar holed a 50 ft putt across the 13th green (photo:getty)

In the third match, Garcia closed the two shot gap at the 12th, but with a chance to take the match all square, American Kuchar sent a putt across the 13th green - of all of 50 feet - into the middle of the cup.

Elsewehere, Mickelson and Kuchar led by three, with four to play and in the second match Moore and Willett both missed putts from the front of the green, to remain level with four to play.

Pivotal points up for grabs

As 'lefty' and Kuchar closed on the win, Stenson and Rose were battling back. Spieth and Reed were cut back from three up to just one with five to go, after consecutive birdies. Reed however responded in typical fashion and birdied 14 and 15 to restore the three shot lead, to guarantee at least a half.

At the 17th after JB Holmes' tee shot flopped into the water, Ryan Moore was left on his own. Both Westwood and Willett three-putted for bogey to go one down for the first time down 18. The US were up in the remaining trio of matches.

A pensive US team look on (photo:getty)
A pensive US team look on (photo:getty)

Kuchar and Mickelson wrapped up their match 2&1, which left Europe needing to take a half in the last two games to stay in touch overnight. It was left to Westwood. The Worksop veteran played a superb shot into the green to leave a tiddler. To the agony of the watching European captain Darren Clarke, the putt missed as Moore and Holmes sealed a potentially pivotal point for the USA.

Spieth and Reed were forced down the final two but after the latter's tee shot at 17 found the heart of the green, the 26 year-old had two putts to win the match. He duly obliged to take it 2&1.

The result leaves the USA three points ahead of Europe going into Sunday's final singles, with repeat akin to the Miracle at Medinah in 2012 needed to retain the Ryder Cup.