Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed walked away from a hard-fought match against Justin Rose, Europe’s superstar this year, and Martin Kaymer to secure Team USA’s only half point in Saturday afternoon foursomes.
Only problem is the American rookie duo probably should have won the match, but bad breaks and sloppy putting led to a halve and killed any momentum the U.S. could’ve taken with them into the team room after a(nother) 3-1 drubbing in the alternate shot format. Now, the Americans find themselves trailing 10-6 and closing in on its eighth Ryder Cup loss in the last 10 attempts.
Spieth and Reed, who won again in commanding fashion 5&3 in morning fourballs, had the advantage for most of the day as they were 2-up through 11 and 1-up through 14, not to mention 1-up heading into 18. They had their chances — thanks to three missed putts inside 6 feet by Kaymer in the stretch from nos. 13-16 — but couldn’t buy a putt.
“This afternoon was just sloppy, on both sides,” said Reed. “It was one of those matches hopefully you were able to grind out and get the full point. You know, unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the full point but at least we were able to put some more points on the board with a halve.”
Kaymer missed his third short putt in four holes on the 16th, leaving Reed with a two-footer to win the hole and go 1-up. But, the pressure and nerves got to the 25-year-old Ryder Cup rookie and he yipped it, leading to the fourth bogey in five holes for the young Americans. It was shocking. The image of him bent over in disgust and outrage will be one that lasts with me for a while.
As he stormed to the 17th tee, you could practically see the steam coming out of his ears. He left teammate Zach Johnson hanging when Johnson tried to encourage Reed with a high five on the way from the green to the tee — Reed marched right past him.
“It’s just one of those short putts that you happen to hit a little timid, you don’t really get a good stroke on it,” said Reed afterward in his press conference. “When you hit a good putt and you don’t hit a good stroke on a short one, especially with hard winds, that putt was probably like an inside left putt and if you don’t put a good stroke on it, it’s going to tail off, and unfortunately it tailed off.”
Meanwhile, Spieth, who was almost just as fiery as his partner’s miss, hit a phenomenal pressure-packed tee shot on the par-3 17th to about eight feet. The putt was conceded as the Europeans made a bogey.
The Americans just needed to tie the Europeans on the par-5 18th to hold on to a much-needed full point, if anything for momentum heading into Sunday’s singles matches. Reed, who was still fired up after the short missed putt, drummed a driver down the middle. Spieth knocked the second shot into the right greenside bunker. Then, Rose hit it into the same one.
Unfortunately for the Americans, they drew an awful lie up against the back lip. When assistant captain Andy North walked up and saw the unlucky break, he put his head in his hands in despair. Reed did the best he could with it, but didn’t have a shot at the pin, knocking it to about 25 feet about the hole. Meanwhile, Kaymer hit it out to five feet.
Spieth gave the birdie putt a good run, but it just burned the edge. The Americans were forced to settle with the par and opened the door for the Europeans. Rose, who has made what feels like 1,000 yards in putts this week, calmly rolled in the putt for a four to win the hole and halve the match.
“(Speith and Reed) have had a great Ryder Cup, and that match was certainly there for the taking from both teams to be honest with you, but we caught a break there,” said Rose, who has scored the most points for Europe so far with three total. “They got a poor lie on 18 which I’m sure they are going to be disappointed about. But my man here fought hard all day. Foursomes can be like that; when you don’t get your rhythm going, it can be a tough day out there and we worked hard for our half point today.”
A pep talk from Kaymer walking up the 18th gave Rose a boost as they played the last.
“Martin actually turned around my mind-set,” said Rose. “He said, “Come on, we deserve half a point out of this match.” That’s what picked me up playing 18. To have that opportunity to pull out the halve, that obviously makes the day feel great and keeps the momentum for us going into tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, for the Americans, it felt more like a loss — mostly because it killed any momentum they could’ve brought with them into the team room that night.
“(We were just) talking about how important Justin’s putt on 18 was with Martin,” said Graeme McDowell. “Because any glimmer of momentum that they had, say they win that match, they take something with them into the locker room. And that’s what happened to us at Medinah two years ago when Rory and Mr. Ryder Cup (Ian Poulter) there did their thing coming down the stretch when Poults birdied the last five.
“Despite the fact that we were in a hole (two years ago), it elevated the whole team. We took some momentum and some kind of level of belief into the locker room and it kind of filtered through all 12 players, and there was a level of belief that was in the room that was not there the evening before, even though we were in much worse shape going into Sunday than we were going into Saturday. Like I say, that’s why that putt for Justin was so huge, because it gave them nothing to take away this evening.”
However, the Americans still believe — at least that’s what they have to say regardless of the team morale or actual feelings. Spieth feels that the foursomes thrashing will motivate the U.S. more in the singles matches.
“The singles is our team’s strong suit, no doubt about it,” said Spieth. “Today we battled for a point and a half and we’re upset about it. So you know, that just shows the competitiveness that we have, and neither one of us can really wait for that first tee shot tomorrow. I speak for Patrick, I’m sure, with that.
“Whatever happens, there’s a lot of guys on our team — a few of the best players in the world that didn’t play a match today, and those guys are even more anxious than we are. We are going to come out strong as a team tomorrow and put this afternoon behind us, because as a team it wasn’t what we were looking for.”
Captain Tom Watson reminded everyone that the Americans have overcome a 10-6 deficit before.
“It’s disappointing, but when all is said and done, it’s 10-6, and as I recall, there’s been a little bit of history with 10-6 comebacks, most recently the Europeans last year and of course in 1999 at Brookline,” said Watson. “The players are already talking about that. They said that this is what we’re going to have to do. Every player right here is going to have to play their guts out, play their hearts out. We are going to have to get off to a good start.”
The Americans have come back from trailing 10-6, but unfortunately, they’ve never done it in Europe. I suppose there’s always a chance for a first — if only a slim one.