Birdie for Koepka on 2, and he immediately makes up for the mistake on the opening tee. Meanwhile Sergio isn’t wet at 5. He’s got another awful stance in a bunker, so is forced to take his medicine. And suddenly he’s in pole position, because DeChambeau, also in a tight spot on the right, squirts one across the fairway and into the drink. Meanwhile Hovland’s three-birdie start ends with bogey at four, and his lead over Morikawa is halved at a stroke, while Thomas walks in an eight-footer on 1 to hit the lead immediately against Hatton.
Schauffele v McIlroy 1UP (7) 3UP Cantlay v Lowry (6) 3UP Scheffler v Rahm (5) 2UP DeChambeau v Garcia (4) Morikawa v Hovland 1UP (4) Johnson A/S Casey (2) Koepka A/S Wiesberger 1UP (2) Finau v Poulter 1UP (1) 1UP Thomas v Hatton (1) English v Westwood USA 11-5 Europe
Birdie putts for Lowry and Cantlay on 6. Lowry’s effort slips by from ten feet; Cantlay drops his calmly from six to move three up. Par is enough for DeChambeau at 4, and then his opponent Garcia – shades off now – sends his tee shot at 5 dangerously close to the water on the right. And it was indeed a momentum shifter for Schauffele with that par save on 6; another par, this time at 7, is enough to halve his arrears with McIlroy, who couldn’t get up and down from an awkward spot to the left of the green.
Schauffele v McIlroy 1UP (7) 3UP Cantlay v Lowry (6) 3UP Scheffler v Rahm (5) 2UP DeChambeau v Garcia (4) Morikawa v Hovland 2UP (3) Johnson A/S Casey (2) Koepka v Wiesberger 1UP (1) Finau v Poulter 1UP (1) Thomas v Hatton USA 11-5 Europe
Scheffler’s dip in the drink at 5 costs him the hole. He nearly got out of jail, mind, only for his 12-foot par saver to somehow horseshoe out when it looked certain to drop. Just the three up now. On the opening hole, the Postman, who may be making his last Ryder Cup delivery today, rolls in a staunch 15-footer for birdie. Poulter one up on Finau, and looking very determined indeed.
Morikawa looks to have won 3 with a 15-foot birdie putt … only for Hovland to roll one in from similar distance himself! That’s a birdie-birdie-birdie start for the young Norwegian, who looks custom-built for Ryder Cup golf. Meanwhile it’s an early gift of a hole for Wiesberger when Koepka whistles his opening drive into a juniper bush.
Schauffele v McIlroy 2UP (6) 2UP Cantlay v Lowry (5) 4UP Scheffler v Rahm (4) 1UP DeChambeau v Garcia (3) Morikawa v Hovland 2UP (3) Johnson A/S Casey (1) Koepka v Wiesberger 1UP (1) Finau v Poulter USA 11-5 Europe
Cantlay screeches his approach at 5 to six inches. If that. What spin control! He picks up as Lowry concedes, then gives the ball to a delighted young lad. A lovely moment. Back down the hole, a chink of light for Rahm as Scheffler goes for the green in two and gets wet. Then up on 6, Schauffele makes an up and down from an awkward position on a dust path. Par, forcing McIlroy to make his six-foot birdie putt … but he can’t make it. A half that’ll feel like a win for Schauffele. A momentum shifter?
Scheffler knocks his approach to 4 stone dead. Rahm nearly responds by draining a long birdie putt, but there goes another hole. He’s not even done too much wrong; Scheffler has started with four straight birdies! Meanwhile birdie for Sergio on 3, and that snatches a hole back against DeChambeau. And a second birdie for Hovland at 2.
Schauffele v McIlroy 2UP (5) 1UP Cantlay v Lowry (4) 4UP Scheffler v Rahm (4) 1UP DeChambeau v Garcia (3) Morikawa v Hovland 2UP (2) Johnson A/S Casey (1) Koepka v Wiesberger USA 11-5 Europe
2014 Rory is back, baby! Sort of. Schauffele has a 15-foot putt for the win on 5, but he can’t make it. That leaves the door slightly ajar for McIlroy, who has a chance to tie from similar distance. He pours it in, and celebrates wildly. Out of jail after that wholly unnecessary dip in the briny. Speaking of which, back up the hole, Lowry becomes the second European to pull one into the drink. After a fast start, this is threatening to get away from the 2019 Open champ.
Sergio is always out of position coming down the par-five 2nd. Faced with an awkward stance in a bunker – he’s basically forced to sit by the side as he plays his shot – he can’t find the green in regulation. The resulting bogey is enough to give DeChambeau the hole in par. Meanwhile two putts on 4 are enough for Cantlay to complete a quick turnaround in fortunes against Lowry. I would say this is already looking ominous for Europe, but … well … let’s not belabour the point.
Schauffele v McIlroy 2UP (4) 1UP Cantlay v Lowry (4) 3UP Scheffler v Rahm (3) 2UP DeChambeau v Garcia (2) Morikawa v Hovland 1UP (1) Johnson v Casey USA 11-5 Europe
Scottie Scheffler has flown out of the blocks! He sends a forensic iron at the par-three 3rd straight at the flag, leaving a ten-footer for a third birdie in a row. He makes it without breaking sweat. Rahm, the number-one player in the world right now, has no answer, and walks off stunned. Speaking of stunned, there’s some supreme idiocy from McIlroy on 5, who nearly finds water on the right with his drive, then, in chipping out from the thick rough, bundles his ball into the drink on the left! His 2014 pomp seems such a long time ago. Well, it is a long time ago, but you get the general gist.
A shaky start for Morikawa, who sends his opening drive into the undulating rough down the left, then chunks his chip. His opponent Hovland wedges to eight feet, and there’s no need for him to putt out, because Morikawa’s second attempt with the wedge doesn’t go particularly close, and he fails to make the par putt. He picks up Hovland’s coin and we move on.
Cantlay rolls in his birdie putt on 2, and pretty much expected he’s all square with Lowry again. Meanwhile it’s a really fast start now for Scheffler, who cards another birdie at 2, winning another hole against the world number one and European star turn Rahm. But it’s also a fine start for McIlroy, who goes two up after Schauffele finds greenside sand at 4 and is unable to get up and down.
Schauffele v McIlroy 2UP (4) Cantlay A/S Lowry (3) 2UP Scheffler v Rahm (2) 1UP DeChambeau v Garcia (1) Morikawa v Hovland USA 11-5 Europe
Sergio wedges to ten feet. Lovely chip, but he’ll have no opportunity to make birdie. DeChambeau steers in his right-to-left 20-foot slider, and that’s what you call a statement. Opening eagle! Meanwhile there’s a fair chance Cantlay will be taking back a hole at 3, having sent his tee shot to ten feet and with Lowry down the bank to the left.
Schauffele v McIlroy 1UP (3) Cantlay v Lowry 1UP (2) 1UP Scheffler v Rahm (1) 1UP DeChambeau v Garcia (1) Morikawa v Hovland USA 11-5 Europe
McIlroy misses his birdie chance on 3. His approaches have been sensational; his flat stick less so. Story of his career, especially in recent years. He remains one up on Schauffele, though. Back on 2, his compatriot Lowry makes birdie to move one up on Cantlay.
Schauffele v McIlroy 1UP (3) Cantlay v Lowry 1UP (2) 1UP Scheffler v Rahm (1) DeChambeau v Garcia USA 11-5 Europe
Rahm never looks like making his 20-foot birdie putt. Scheffler tidies up, and it’s a fast start for the hosts in match three. Back on the tee, Sergio, sporting handsome mirrored shades, whips his opening drive down the track. It’s a wonderful drive, but nothing on the one DeChambeau pitches on the green! Coming down from high orbit, the ball holds. The crowd go wild. The guy’s a star, no matter what anyone says.
McIlroy draws a lovely iron into the downhill par-three 3rd. He’s pin high, eight feet from the pin. Schauffele is perhaps twice the distance outside. Meanwhile it’s advantage USA on 1, where Rahm chips his second to Lowry Country, while Scheffler releases his to four feet.
Schauffele’s chip from the side of 2 is a little heavy handed. Eight feet past the hole. McIlroy has the chance to win with his eagle putt, but pulls the gentle right-to-left curler. Schauffele rolls in a nerve-settling birdie putt, and it’s enough to halve the hole. McIlroy will have harboured thoughts of going two up there, but just like Cantlay on the 1st, he’s clearly not in the mood to keep making mistakes. That’s a fine scramble.
Schauffele v McIlroy 1UP (2) Cantlay A/S Lowry (1) Scheffler v Rahm USA 11-5 Europe
Cantlay settles himself pretty quickly, though. He splashes up to kick-in distance, and that secures a par, forcing Lowry to make a quick downhill birdie putt from the best part of 20 feet if he wants the win. Lowry gets the pace pretty much perfect, but the ball stays up on the lip. That’s a fine recovery by Cantlay, a staunch half, an early nervous negative quickly transformed into a positive.
Schauffele v McIlroy 1UP (1) Cantlay A/S Lowry (1) Scheffler v Rahm USA 11-5 Europe
So having said that, Cantlay blades his chip through the 1st green. He’s over the back and in a bunker, after a very uncharacteristic betrayal of his nerves. Lowry sends his on line, but leaves it 15 feet short. Up on 2, Schauffele is greenside in two, but facing a tricky chip; McIlroy is on the fringe with a ten-foot eagle putt to come.
Back on the tee, one of Europe’s few heroes this week: Shane Lowry. He cracks one down the track, as does his opponent, the new FedEx champion Patrick Cantlay. “He’s all business, all of the time,” says Butch Harmon on Sky, painting his gameface pretty much perfectly.
McIlroy and Schauffele both face 60-foot putts from the fringe. McIlroy’s effort stops six feet short, so he does very well in the circumstances to roll his birdie putt straight into the cup. Schauffele’s long putt is much better, pin high to three feet … but he shoves a very nervous one to the right. That’s a bit of a shock, and Europe immediately put a bit of blue on the board. The comeback’s on! (Well, we have to say it while we still can.)
Schauffele v McIlroy 1UP (1) Cantlay v Lowry USA 11-5 Europe
Padraig Harrington gives a slightly guarded interview to Sky Sports. He explains the psychology of the situation: his team haven’t been sent out to win nine points; they’re each trying to win one. He pauses a long while upon being asked whether McIlroy requested the lead spot; it was the captain’s decision but everyone is happy with where they’re playing. He then wanders off looking a little pensive. All the while, his opposite number Steve Stricker can be seen in shot behind him, with the relaxed, content smile of a club captain who has just ordered a triple gin and a bowl of chips.
Here we go, then! One way or another, this is going to be memorable. Is Sunday at the Ryder Cup ever anything but? Team Europe – holders of the Ryder Cup, but in all probability not for much longer – take to the first tee, where bedlam reigns, the denizens of the bleachers in party mood. Smiles from Padraig Harrington and his lead man Rory McIlroy. US vice captain Fred Couples comes over to say hello. McIlroy will hit the first drive of the Sunday singles. He steps up, now looking a little nervous, understandably so given his form … then just about drives the green, 350 yards away. His opponent Xander Schauffele up next … and the Olympic champion makes it to the fringe, too. Off they go! Here we go!
USA 11-5 Europe
For the fourth session in a row, Europe are in desperate need of a fast start. Fourth time lucky, then? Well, if they’re to retain or win the 43rd Ryder Cup Matches, they’ll need to do something that’s never been done before in the entire history of this grand old transatlantic competition: recover a five-point deficit going into the singles.
If they manage it, they’ll knock 2012’s Miracle of Medinah and 1999’s Battle of Brookline into a cocked beanie. Hey, you never know, though perhaps they’d do better to set themselves a more realistic target: getting into double figures, which would ensure they at least beat Europe’s worst-ever total (9½ at Walton Heath in 1981) and better the performance of Hal Sutton’s corked 2004 vintage, who also went into the singles 11-5 down and only managed 4½ further points en route to the USA’s largest-ever defeat. Modest ambitions, but you’ve seen how the first two days played out against this stunningly talented American team.
Still, the Ryder Cup’s the Ryder Cup, ain’t that the truth. And its history shows that nothing’s over until it’s over. If Europe do somehow pull off the nigh-on impossible, their fans can thank me for tempting fate afterwards. Rout, procession, or jaw-dropping comeback, let’s enjoy the golf. It’s on! Here are the tee times (all BST):
5.04 pm: Rory McIlroy v Xander Schauffele 5.15 pm: Shane Lowry v Patrick Cantlay 5.26 pm: Jon Rahm v Scottie Scheffler 5.37 pm: Sergio Garcia v Bryson DeChambeau 5.48 pm: Viktor Hovland v Collin Morikawa 5.59 pm: Paul Casey v Dustin Johnson 6.10 pm: Bernd Wiesberger v Brooks Koepka 6.21 pm: Ian Poulter v Tony Finau 6.32 pm: Tyrell Hatton v Justin Thomas 6.43 pm: Lee Westwood v Harris English 6.54 pm: Tommy Fleetwood v Jordan Spieth 7.05 pm: Matt Fitzpatrick v Daniel Berger