Monday 18 December 2017

Europe fight back in strong foursomes performance

Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson celebrate victory over Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar
Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson celebrate victory over Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar

Independent Newsdesk and Agencies

Europe turned the screw on team USA in the foursomes this afternoon, collecting three and a half from a possible four points.

Firstly Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood beat Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar, before Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson continued their point-scoring form from their earlier fourball partnership.

Having bogeyed the third to go behind, Westwood's 15-foot birdie at the short sixth and a Donaldson par saw a two-shot swing in as many holes. Another Westwood putt, this time from eight feet, at the 11th put Europe two up and Donaldson holed a crucial 12-footer at the next for a half after Furyk had hit his approach close.

Donaldson messed up his approach to the par-five 16th which allowed Furyk to birdie and cut the lead, but then Kuchar duffed his chip into the final green, giving Europe three shots to get up and down from a greenside swale, and when Donaldson putted it up the American's conceded.

In the second foursomes, a good start from Europe saw Rose birdie the first and sixth but that lead was wiped out in the space of the next two holes. Johnson birdied from five feet and then Rose missed a short one which meant Europe three-putted the subsequent green to drop back to all square.

Rose, from 25 feet, and Mahan, from eight feet, traded birdie putts on the 11th and 14th before the United States' game began to unravel.

Mahan missed a six-foor par putt at the 15th, where Europe did well to get up and down from the back of the green, and then the American raced one past the hole from the back fringe of the 17th green. With Stenson having rolled his birdie attempt to within two feet, Johnson needed to hole out to keep the match alive but failed and Rose knocked in to make sure.

Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler claimed the only score for the Americans, but having led by two on the 17th, they will be disappointed to have given Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia half a point.

Despite being Europe's top pair, McIlroy and Garcia continued to look out of sorts after a poor morning fourballs but eventually came good when it came to the crunch. Having gone ahead with a par at the third, Garcia hooked his drive out of bounds at the fifth, only for the Spaniard to sink a 40-foot putt at the next. Their messy play continued as McIlroy fired his approach through the seventh green, resulting in another bogey.

Fowler's short birdie putt at the 11th put the US one up and the Americans doubled their lead when Garcia missed an eight-footer for par at the next. McIlroy's bunker escape at the next reduced the deficit but Garcia's waywardness off the tee cost another bogey at the 15th to put Europe under real pressure.

It came down to now or never at the par-three 17th and McIlroy duly delivered with a monster birdie putt. But even better was to come at the last, with Garcia's remarkable metal wood drilled pin-high to set up an eagle chance. With Fowler's approach out of the opposite rough finding the bunker, the American was left with a 10-foot birdie chance to win the match with their opponents' putt conceded but he missed and Europe's top two escaped with a half.

In the final pairing, debutant Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell saw off the challenge of  Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley 3&2

Having sat out the morning session, Europe's pair looked relatively comfortable in going three up inside five holes, although Mickelson's missed tiddler on the fourth and another bogey at the next contributed significantly. Rookie Dubuisson missed par and birdie putts at the eighth and ninth as the US ate into the lead but they handed both holes back with bogeys at 10 and 12.

A poor drive by McDowell cost his side the 13th and Europe escaped with a half at the next when Dubuisson pulled his drive going for the green at the short par four.

But when Mickelson fluffed his approach to the par-five 16th, Europe saw their chance and Dubuisson nervelessly hit their third to 18 feet and McDowell duly obliged with the putter for only their second birdie of the day.

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