After a solid Friday morning fourball session for Team USA, the Europeans dominated the afternoon foursomes, winning 3.5 of the total possible 4 points from the second session.
Unfortunately, I was correct in my prediction that the Americans would get throttled (I guessed 3-1), but it was obviously even worse than I anticipated. (Not that anyone cares, but the good news is I correctly predicted the score 2.5-1.5 after the first session, and I have a bet slip to prove it!)
Following the first day of matches, Europe leads the U.S. by a two-point margin at 5-3. The Americans need a strong showing on Saturday morning to keep it close and build momentum heading into the afternoon foursomes, so this edition of the Ryder Cup doesn’t become a runaway European win (and a total embarrassment for the U.S.).
I hate to say it, but looking at the fourball pairings/matches, things don’t appear to bode well for the U.S. if the Europeans continue to gel and play like they have — not to mention their strongest pairing of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, the world nos. 1 and 3, respectively, only managed to garner a half point together on Friday. Imagine if they actually had played half-decent.
My apologies in advance for the brevity of my match previews, but it’s past midnight and I was up before 5am Friday. Anyway, without further ado, here are Saturday morning’s fourball matches:
Match 1: Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson vs. Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar
The U.S. should just concede this match to Europe. Rose and Stenson were the MVPs for their team on Friday, putting two points on the board together. It’s like Captain Watson figured Captain McGinley would send his strongest duo out first, so he paired two of his weakest links together to play against them and is just hoping for the best. Otherwise, he’s probably prepared to lose the point and count on the remaining three duos to get the job done. But match play is weird and ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, so hopefully I’m wrong.
Match 2: Jamie Donaldson/Lee Westwood vs. Jim Furyk/Hunter Mahan
I knew Donaldson would shine, but I didn’t think it would be enough to carry Westwood. Turned out Westy held his own and the in-form Donaldson continued his strong play. I think some of his confidence and momentum are carrying over to Westwood, who has confidence in Donaldson. Basically, the two make a fantastic partnership and I don’t see that changing drastically.
Furyk and Mahan weren’t paired together on Friday and they also didn’t play horribly, but their opponents simply outplayed them. We’ll see if changing things up will conjure up some much-needed magic for the U.S.
Match 3: Thomas Bjorn/Martin Kaymer vs. Patrick Reed/Jordan Spieth
Bjorn and Kaymer played pretty well against Walker and Fowler in Friday morning fourballs, and probably should’ve won the match instead of halving it, but that’s another good partnership on the European team (they all work so well together). They are well rested and out for blood, but great news for the U.S. is that so are the American rookies after being benched Friday afternoon.
I could tell Spieth and Reed were really pissed (sorry, but that seems like the appropriate word to describe it) and they weren’t shy about showing it or even voicing it. The two young guns were fired up after putting the first American point on the board and drumming their opponents 5&4, so they were extra disappointed when they found out that they weren’t playing in the afternoon, especially since Captain Watson told them he was going to take into account the performance from the morning matches. Look for them to be raring to go and hope they can continue their momentum from the first session. Oh, I also have a feeling they’ll be playing both matches Saturday regardless of the result in the morning.
Match 4: Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter vs. Jimmy Walker/Rickie Fowler
Walker and Fowler should’ve been able to close out their match against McIlroy and Garcia, but hey, stuff happens and some of it was out of their control. Then again, they also perhaps shouldn’t have halved their fourball match against Kaymer and Bjorn, but managed to salvage a half point by winning two of the last three holes. Bottom line is that this American pair is playing well, especially Walker. If Fowler can get the putter going on Saturday, this duo will be dangerous.
Then again, you could say the same thing about the pairing of McIlroy and Poulter. Neither of them had their best on Friday, but Poulter also hasn’t been in form in a long time. However, Poulter has lost his first match in several previous Ryder Cups and gone onto turn things around, a la Medinah in 2012. Let’s hope he doesn’t find his “magic” on Saturday, but I feel like he might be able to feed off Rory if the world no. 1 turns up with his A-game.