Ryder Cup: Five things we learned with USA on cusp of glory against Europe

It was another tough day for Team Europe at the Ryder Cup as their American opponents backed up a strong Friday showing by winning five of the eight points on offer on Saturday.

Leading 6-2 going into the morning foursomes, Steve Stricker’s men took the session 3-1 and although the Europeans finally showed real resistance to match their opponents in the fourballs, at 11-5 down the task for Padraig Harrington’s men looks an almost insurmountable one.

In the history of the tournament, no side has ever come back to a win from a deficit of more than four points on Sunday – and if Europe were to retain the trophy from here, it would even surpass their exploits in Medinah nine years ago where they famously prevailed from 10-6 down.

And following the close of play, Mirror Sport has taken a look at the five things we learned from the second day…

Team USA are on the cusp of winning the Ryder Cup, leading Europe 11-5 heading into the final day

Harrington’s morning tactics backfire

When you’re 6-2 down after the opening day, the temptation must be to load your line-up for the Saturday foursomes.

It was a temptation that Harrington resisted, and it backfired badly. The Team Europe captain again sent the already iconic Spanish duo of Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm out first, and it paid dividends as they beat Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger to reduce the deficit.

However, Harrington opted to leave out Rory Mcllroy, Ian Poulter and most notably Tommy Fleetwood, whose half point with Viktor Hovland the previous day had continued his unbeaten run in Ryder Cup pairs matches.

Instead, he kept faith with Paul Casey, who duly notched a third straight tournament defeat alongside Tyrrell Hatton, and kept faith with the seemingly uninspired partnership of Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick.

Also, pairing rookies Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger together was a risky game, and they succumbed to a defeat in the foursomes against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.

It resulted in Team USA’s 6-2 lead becoming a 9-3 one, and an already sizeable mountain for Europe to climb became higher still.

Spanish flare the only highlight for Europe

European hopes are hanging by a thread (if you can even say that) heading into the Sunday singles – a thread which only exists thanks to Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia.

Of the five points won by Harrington’s side, the Spanish pair have secured three of them, with Rahm also notching a halve with Tyrrell Hatton on Saturday.

Sergio Garcia’s partnership with Jon Rahm has been the only real highlight for Europe

Their win over Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger on Saturday morning was backed up by a thrilling 2&1 victory over Jordan Spieth and Koepka again in the afternoon.

It means Garcia has now set a record for most match wins in the Ryder Cup, and his partnership with Rahm has drawn inevitable comparisons with that of Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros.

Things may not have gone to plan for Harrington in America, but opting to make the 41-year-old Garcia a captain’s pick, and then partnering him with the world No 1, are two decisions that have struck gold.

Talisman Rory tamed in Wisconsin

On the one hand, Rory Mcllroy not appearing in the Saturday morning foursomes was no surprise – after all he’d lost both Friday matches 5&3 and 4&3.

But this of course, was Mcllroy, a man who had played in 26 straight Ryder Cup sessions – and former European captain Paul McGinley was amongst those to question the decision.

Rory McIlroy has been off his game at Whistling Straits
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McGinley argued that in recent majors, Mcllroy had a tendency to bounce back from difficult days with stellar ones – and the Sky Sports Golf expert had a point.

After being recalled for the Saturday fourballs however, it’s not unfair to conclude that the Mcllroy of Whistling Straits has been a shadow of the Mcllroy of the five previous Ryder Cups.

He failed to notch a single birdie in his two fourball matches, and he and Poulter’s 4&3 defeat to Dustin Johnson and Colin Morikawa represented a third match where the Northern Irishman barely made an impression.

Harrington maintains Mcllroy has been a leader in the locker room this week, but sadly, he’s been anything but a leader on the course.

Brooks backs down for no man

Brooks Koepka is no shrinking violet – not even it seems, when the match referee orders him to play his shot.

The morning foursomes match between the Koepka and Daniel Berger, and Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, had reached the 15th hole with the Spaniards one up when Berger’s drive ended near a drainage pipe.

Brooks Koepka was involved in a heated exchange with officials in the morning foursomes session
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Given the ball’s awkward lie, Koepka was adamant he was entitled to a free drop but neither match referee David Price or European Tour official David Litton agreed.

It prompted a bizarre ten-minute delay as Koepka sought to change the mind of the officials, even warning: “If I break my wrist, it’s on ******* both of you.”

As it happened, he didn’t break his wrist, eventually playing a sublime 200-yard iron shot into the heart of the green.

It wasn’t enough to prevent a 3&1 defeat for the American pair though, not to mention an abundance of criticism for the strong-headed Koepka’s behaviour.

DeChambeau keeps delivering to the headline writers

Let’s face it, Bryson DeChambeau was never going to rock up in Wisconsin for a quiet weekend.

It took him one shot to cause controversy on Friday when his drive careered off line and struck the leg of a female spectator. It is still unknown whether he shouted ‘fore’.

Bryson DeChambeau lays his putter on the first green during the Saturday fourballs
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Four holes later however, he was going viral for the right reasons after unleashing a monster 417-yard drive on the par-five fifth.

On Saturday, he’d again created a flashpoint before even reaching the second tee.

Partnering Scottie Scheffler in the fourballs against Tommy Fleetwood, and Viktor Hovland, DeChambeau was incensed when he was made to hole a short putt on the first for half.

To emphasise the point, after draining the three-footer he laid his putter on the ground and shot a meaningful glance at the Europeans and the crowd.

DeChambeau and Scheffler had the last laugh however as they won the point that made it 11-5 America, with the former living up to his reputation as an immensely talented golfer – and an equally divisive character.

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