30 September 2012

Europe Fight Back At Medinah To Keep In Touch With The USA

A thrilling evening of golf at Medinah supplied plenty of thrills and spills before the session ended up being  shared 2-2  meaning that the US go into tomorrow's singles matches with a 10-6 lead. Europe produced a stirring fight-back at the end of the day to win the last two matches after being 10-4 behind at one point and down in the last. 

Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter produced a great come-back to defeat Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner to keep Europe in the Ryder Cup hunt with just one day to go. Just before that Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia with-held a Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker come-back to give Europe hope. Colsaerts and Lawrie also played the 18th hole but were beaten one up by Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar. 

Earlier on Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson beat Molinari and Rose 5&4 after a destructive display. Magnificent hitting from both men sealed the comprehensive victory with Simpson's putting well and truly on song. Rose had a putt on the 14th green to keep the match going but, just like so many putts for Europe, it looked in all the way before sliding all the way around the hole and out the other side.

Bubba Watson said of the Ryder Cup experience: "Its very special, its his [Simpson's] first time in the Ryder Cup, lost one but won a couple. Great fans, the competition has been great, its been fun."

Simpson acknowledged the pressure of playing in a Ryder Cup: "Hitting that first tee shot and making that first birdie, I could feel my heart beating. Because you are playing for your team-mates and your country, there is more pressure than in a major, for sure."

At one stage Colsaerts and Lawrie were two down to Johnson and Kuchar but they fought back to one down with five to play. Colsaerts hit a magnificent second shot into 14, only for his eagle putt to somehow stay out after rolling all the way round and then failing to drop, despite being within a centimetre of the hole. To make matters worse, that was the second time that had happened to him in consecutive holes. Dustin Johnson duly holed out from about 3 feet for his birdie and Colsaerts and Lawrie remained one down. 

Matt Kuchar hit the green on the short par four 15th, while both Europeans found the left-hand bunker. The Belgian massively over-cooked his bunker shot and it rolled all the way off the green, down the slope and stopped a couple of feet short of the water. Scotsman Lawrie played his with much more conviction from an almost identical position to leave himself with a 5-foot birdie putt. Kuchar played a near perfect eagle putt and it stopped dead just inches away from the side of the hole to seal a birdie for the USA and pile the pressure on Lawrie, however he stepped up and stroked it in to stay one down with three to play. 

The Europeans's fortunes appeared to be changing as Matt Kuchar's second on the 16th struck a tree and ended up further back than it was originally. Dustin Johnson then missed the green while Lawrie found the fringe to really open the door for the away pair. The 1999 Open champion sealed the hole in par to take the match to all square going down the 17th and really put the cat in the American pigeons. 

On the penultimate hole Lawrie and Colsaerts both hit good tee shots onto the green, but the American duo appeared to hardly feel the pressure and ensured that all four players found the dance-floor. Somehow both Lawrie and Colsaert's birdie attempts didn't drop and Dustin Johnson took advantage with a wonderful 25-foot putt down the hill to regain the one hole lead. That was a crushing blow and it felt as though it could be a crucial moment in the Ryder Cup with the United States guaranteed to at least be leading by three points going into the singles tomorrow. 

Colsaerts almost holed his approach to the last but span quite a way past the hole to leave himself with a 15 footer up the hill for birdie. Johnson responded brilliantly to also leave himself with a birdie try from a similar distance. The Belgian captain's pick missed his putt to the right to give the USA a more than commanding 10-4 lead and wins in the last two matches became a must for Europe if they were to have any chance of retaining the trophy.

The only game that looked destined for a Europe victory, at one stage Donald and Garcia were four up over Woods and Stricker, was the third match, but Woods found his form and the Americans pulled it back to two down with six to play. Woods hit an amazing tee shot on 13 to within about 2 feet for birdie to continue the come-back. Garcia left a 35 footer in the jaws and Tiger converted to bring him and Stricker to within a shot. On the par 5 14th the world number two saw his second shot fly through the green, finishing up just yards away from Garcia's ball. The Spaniard almost holed his eagle chip, only for it bounce out and leave him a tricky birdie putt from the fringe. Tiger responded excellently with a well-executed flop shot to leave himself a birdie putt up-hill from inside ten feet to put Europe under even more pressure. Garcia poured in his putt but Woods proved that he had well and truly found his form with a clinical effort to halve the hole and stay one down.

On the 15th hole all the players missed the green and it was Luke Donald who put down the gauntlet with a great chip to within 5 feet to set up a golden birdie chance. When Woods's putt stayed up it gave Donald the chance to grab a two hole advantage and he rolled in his birdie try with obvious confidence. Then Woods continued on the birdie trail as he brought it back to within one with two to play. The birdie run from him came as a shock after he had played the front nine the same as a 12 handicapper.

On the 17th tee Woods hit it to about ten feet, but Luke Donald got comfortably inside that with an imperious shot for a tap-in birdie. Despite Donald's brilliance Woods showed his class with a well-played birdie to insure that the penultimate match of the day went down the last.

Donald found the fairway sand and then missed the green before Steve Stricker hit a towering iron shot to about eight feet, despite the immense pressure. Garcia also found the short stuff but had a much tougher putt down the hill with about 15 feet left. Woods did what was needed of him as he found fringe short of the hole to make sure that the Americans would have two good chances of holing birdie putts to draw the match. The Spaniard's effort narrowly missed leaving Stricker needing to hole his putt to draw the match. His effort lipped out, giving Europe just their second point of the day.

McIlroy and Poulter had chances on the front nine but could not hole the putts when it mattered. When two down after 10 Poulter missed a good birdie chance on the 11th green, slipping it below the hole. McIlroy hit a solid second shot to give himself a good birdie chance on 12. Despite missing that opportunity the world number one bounced back in style with a magnificent birdie on the par three 13th to pull to within one hole of Johnson and Dufner. On the following hole, the par five, Poulter holed a nerveless putt for an up-an-down birdie to halve the game and keep the two Europeans in the hunt.

2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson then found the water from the 15th tee which forced Dufner to lay-up and give McIlroy and Poulter another chance to draw the match level. The journey-man American hit his second to about ten feet to give himself a great chance of halving, possibly even winning a hole that the Americans looked out of. Match-play specialist Poulter almost holed his bunker shot meaning that Dufner had to hole his birdie effort to stay one up, he failed to do so and the match was back to all square with three to play.

On the 16th green Poulter holed a magnificent birdie putt to complete the come-back and give Europe the lead with two to play. On the 17th Johnson found the green only five feet from the pin, only for Poulter to hole another birdie putt to give the two Europeans a one hole lead going to the 18th tee.

Poulter hit first from the fairway and found a great spot about ten feet right of the pin before Zach Johnson struck his just outside his opponent. There was still another twist in the tail as Jason Dufner hit a magnificent iron to about four feet, before McIlroy hit a disappointing wedge shot that spun back onto the edge of the green. The Americans decided to let Dufner play first and it proved to be the perfect choice as he rolled it in to pile the pressure on Poulter's twelve footer. He showed why he is regarded as Europe's best Ryder Cup player as he sent it down the hill and straight into the middle of the cup to give Olazabal's men a vital point.

The Europeans will be delighted to snatch the last two matches which keeps them in touch going into the last day when anything can happen. It was still the Americans' day, but it was an admirable fight-back by the visitors to keep themselves in contention.

No comments:

Post a Comment