Another day, another European beatdown at the Ryder Cup
ROME — Like many visitors to Italy, the European Ryder Cup team liked their first dish so much they ordered it again the next day. For the second straight morning, it was a total romp of the Americans.
Normally, in the face of such obvious dominance, the response is Where do you begin? But we know exactly where to begin Saturday: With two of the best major-tournament golfers in recent memory — Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler — getting the brakes beaten off them, 9 and 7, by Team Scandinavia: Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg.
Scheffler and Koepka scrounged together a half-point in Friday afternoon’s four-ball match, so captain Zach Johnson sent them off second Saturday in foursomes, but it took them most of an hour to make an alternate-shot par. The Americans made a double-bogey 6 on the opening hole, then a bogey 5 on the 2nd and another double-bogey 6 on the 3rd. Europe, 3 up, without much effort.
When the Euros birdied the next three holes, it was Europe 5 up thru 6. When they birdied 8, 9, 10 and 11, it was hats-off and shaking hands on the 12th hole, a new record set for biggest blowout match in Ryder Cup history. The golf world has been waiting for something to accompany Tiger Woods’ epic 9 and 8 win over Stephen Ames, and now it has it: 9 and 7. The match lasted just two hours and 20 minutes but it was the emphatic piece of a session the Euros won 3-1 to grab a commanding 9.5-2.5 overall lead.
Jordan and Justin fight, to no avail
It wasn’t just the Scandinavian boys who started 3 up thru 3. The United Kingdom pairing of Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy also took a big lead early in the first match on the course, against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. They played witness to a couple double-bogeys from the Americans in a match that oscillated between 2 up and 3 up for most of the morning. Thanks to a few long putts drained by Spieth and quality ball-striking from Thomas, the Americans found themselves just one down on the 17th.
In for par, Team Fleetwood Mac had two putts from the fringe to win the match. The Fleetwood part of the pairing greased his putt about 20 feet past the hole in a dumbfounding play. But as all great Ryder Cup pairings tend to do, the McIlroy part picked Fleetwood up, burying the come-backer to end the match right there on 17, 2 and 1.
Scottie sits, Fowler sits all day
Zach Johnson’s final stand before Sunday singles comes without his top-ranked player, as Scottie Scheffler has been benched after that historic defeat Saturday morning. His partner, Koepka will also not go back out in the afternoon. Rickie Fowler, who was benched Friday afternoon, is not going to play a match on Saturday.
Instead, ZJ is going with Thomas and Spieth for a third time, Homa and Harman — the only Americans to win a match — for a second time, and two new pairings: Collin Morikawa and Sam Burns, and Patrick Cantlay and Wyndham Clark. Any result worse than 3-1 in favor of the Americans this afternoon will make Sunday’s 12 matches seemingly irrelevant for anything but record-keeping purposes.
Report of American dissension?
Captain Zach Johnson made clear Friday night that all was not well with the health of his American team. He wouldn’t clarify what exactly was bugging them, but said that he was thankful for a good team doctor. However, there may be more amiss with Team USA.
According to Sky Sports reporter Jamie Weir, Patrick Cantlay has been the source of a bit of consternation in the American team room. Players are not paid for their participation in the Ryder Cup — they are compensated by donations made to charity in their name — and according to the report Cantlay has used that distinction as a reason to not wear a team hat.
Whether or not this is indicative of a fractured team room may not ultimately have mattered as the Americans’ play inside the ropes has been lacking. Nine of the 11 worst performers on Friday were Americans, according to DataGolf, which now gives the U.S. a 2.7% chance of winning the Cup outright, and an extra 2.1% chance of retaining on top of that. In other words, Team Europe would be expected to win 19 of 20 Ryder Cups playing from this advantage.