Wednesday 11 December 2019

Americans close the gap after morning fourballs

Rory McIlroy reacts to a missed putt on the 13th green during the morning fourballs
Rory McIlroy reacts to a missed putt on the 13th green during the morning fourballs

Team USA closed to within a point of Europe after some strong performances in the mornings fourballs at Gleneagles.

Tom Watson's side did not get off to a good start as Justin Rose pushed his claims as the player of the tournament with another scintillating round as he and partner henrik Stenson saw off Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar 3&2.

The European pair produced a sensational display to maintain their winning momentum from Friday and register another point for the hosts. Rose's putter was hot, nailing seven birdies while Stenson weighed in with five. Ten of the European birdies came in succession from the seventh to the 16th, turning a two-hole deficit into a commanding win, and in a competition record fourball score of 12 under.

That the contest even reached the 16th was credit to the American duo, who played superbly themselves, shooting a combined nine under par. Kuchar prolonged the match by holing a long putt under pressure to halve the 15th but Rose completed the job at the next.

In the second match Jim Furyk gained revenge for his foursomes loss at the hands of Donaldson and Westwood as he and Mahan eased to a comfortable 4&3 victory. The European pair were unable to generate any of the momentum they enjoyed on Friday.

The Americans started strongly as Mahan birdied the first and Westwood's excellent response at the second, pitching within a few feet to set up a birdie, counted for nothing as Mahan equalled him. That set the tone and despite their best efforts, the Europeans could not win a single hole. An eagle by Mahan at the 14th put the Americans four up and effectively sealed the contest.

Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer lost to Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth 5&3

The inspired rookie pairing of Reed and Spieth again charged to victory, seeing off the challenge of Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer 5&3. Reed seemed nervous as he repeated Webb Simpson's skied tee shot at the first hole and Kaymer birdied. Bjorn followed suit at the third to put Europe two up, but Spieth began the fightback at the fifth and followed up to take the sixth with a birdie two.

It took a brilliant save from off the green by Bjorn at the seventh to keep the match level but Spieth clicked into gear with birdies at the ninth and 10th. When Reed punched the air after adding another biride at 13 the point was in sight and the European pair could not respond, losing two more holes.

The last of the morning action saw some of the best golf of the day with Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter halving with Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler

Poulter finally came to the Gleneagles party to secure half a point and ensure that Europe kept their noses in front after the third session with some superb play in the closing holes.

Aside from a winning birdie at the first, Poulter again struggled to find his usual Ryder Cup magic, leaning heavily on McIlroy, until the match reached the 15th green with the European pair one down. Poulter chipped in from off the green and although it only scraped a half, the juices were flowing. He recovered from a fairway bunker to birdie the next and level the match and his superb approach to the 18th green, coupled with a fine chip from McIlroy, put the pressure back on the Americans. Fowler had a long putt to win the point and level the match but he could not convert.

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