Saturday 23 September 2017

Rose and Stenson on fire but USA on the fightback

Henrik Stenson congratulates teammate Justin Rose for sinking his putt on the tenth green during their fourballs at Gleneagles
Henrik Stenson congratulates teammate Justin Rose for sinking his putt on the tenth green during their fourballs at Gleneagles

Phil Casey

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson fired an amazing 10 birdies in succession to claim a third straight win and increase Europe's lead in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

After two victories on the opening day, Rose and Stenson were sent out first in the Saturday fourballs by captain Paul McGinley and responded with a stunning display of golf to beat Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar 3&2.

The home pair were 12 under par for 16 holes and their American opponents nine under in defeat in a brilliant contest as the players revelled in the calmer conditions.

Rose and Stenson had not trailed at any point on Friday but recovered from losing the opening hole and falling two down after six, despite McGinley revealing Stenson had been struggling with an ongoing back problem.

"We have a little bit of an issue at the moment with Henrik," McGinley told Sky Sports. "He's got a tight back, he's had it for quite a while. He's played a lot of golf, I'm aware of that and we are monitoring him closely today and will make a decision in the afternoon."

Stenson later said he would be resting for the afternoon.

Back issue or not, Stenson started the recovery with a birdie on the seventh and Rose birdied the next to get the home pair back on level terms.

Both players birdied the par-five ninth and Rose birdied the 10th and 11th as well, although that was only good enough to stay level in a match of the highest quality.

Stenson's birdie on the 12th took Europe ahead for the first time - Rose was also within five feet of the hole - and another Rose birdie on the next put them two ahead.

Stenson maintained that advantage by matching Watson's birdie on the 14th and the Swede looked to have struck a decisive blow when his approach to the next left a tap-in, only for Kuchar to hole from 30 feet across the green for a half.

However, Rose produced another superb pitch to three feet on the par-five 16th to set up that 10th straight birdie which was good enough to secure a welcome win, with Europe trailing in the other three matches.

With Stenson reduced to a spectator, the problems began to mount for Europe as Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan beat Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson 4&3, the European pair recording five birdies between them and failing to win a single hole.

Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer had been two up on rookie pair Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed after three holes but had failed to record a birdie since the seventh hole and duly lost 5&3 to make the match score 6-5 to the home side.

All eyes were now on the bottom match, with Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter one down with four to play against Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler.

Fowler looked set to move two up after a superb approach to the 15th, only for Poulter to hole his pitch from short of the green to claim an unlikely half and spark a typical celebration that had been sadly lacking so far.

But whatever the result of the match, Poulter would not be playing again in the foursomes with McGinley sending out Donaldson and Westwood again, Garcia alongside McIlroy and Kaymer with Rose, while Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell were again in the final match.

US captain Tom Watson left out Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley once more, opting to go with Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar, Furyk and Mahan, Spieth and Reed and Walker and Fowler.

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