MEDINAH, Ill. — After two days of match play, the U.S. team was in command of the Ryder Cup by a 10-6 score going into Sunday’s head-to-head matches.
The Americans need only 4.5 points from 12 singles contests on Sunday to win the trophy for the second time in six Ryder Cups.
The Europeans, buoyed by a late day rally, will have to match the biggest last-day reversal in the history of the event, which came in 1999 with a U.S. win.
“It’s been done before in the past. Tomorrow is going to be a big day. I believe momentum will come our way and why not tomorrow?” said European captain Jose Maria Olazabal on Saturday.
U.S. captain Davis Love III said the hosts still had momentum.
“We’re not disappointed. We missed a lot of close putts, and we haven’t lost a segment yet,” he said.
American rookies continued to punch above their weight at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago Saturday with Keegan Bradley proving to be a talisman with three wins from three matches partnered with Phil Mickelson.
Bradley again inspired the U.S. team in the morning as he and four-time major winner Mickelson outplayed Lee Westwood and Luke Donald for a record-tying 7&6 win.
The Bradley-Mickelson team was rested in the afternoon, but another newcomer, Webb Simpson, thrilled the gallery and teammate Bubba Watson with a seven-birdie stretch in 11 holes to claim a 5&4 victory over Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari.
Ian Poulter, with an overall Ryder Cup record of 11-3, continued to be the star for the Europeans, posting a win in the morning with Justin Rose over Simpson and Watson.
In the afternoon, the Englishman, playing with Rory McIlroy, scored five consecutive birdies to close out his round and inspire a come-from-behind 1-up win over Jason Dufner and partner Zach Johnson.
“It was a huge result. It gives us a chance,” said Olazabal about the final group of the day.
The Americans got two more points from their other two rookies on Saturday, with first-time players 8-3 so far for the United States.
Brandt Snedeker won his first match on Saturday morning, teaming with Jim Furyk to hold off world number one McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Dufner appeared headed to a perfect 3-0 record in his first Ryder Cup after he and Johnson won in the morning and had a 2-up lead through 12 in the afternoon before Poulter caught fire.
Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker remained the only American players without a point having lost all three of their matches so far.
After resting in the morning, the two U.S. veterans fought back from four behind through nine holes to put themselves in position to win half a point against Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald.
Woods found his form with five birdies on the back nine, but Stricker missed a 10-foot putt that would have halved the match on 18.
After Nicolas Colsaerts posted eight birdies and an eagle in a round on Friday, the Belgian rookie lost twice on Saturday.
First, he and Garcia fell to Dufner and Zach Johnson, and in the afternoon it was Dustin Johnson’s long birdie putt on 17 that led him and Matt Kuchar past Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie 1-up.
“It was probably the loudest roar I’ve ever heard,” said Johnson about the decisive putt. “That was one of the best putts I’ve ever made.”
Mickelson tied the American record of 37 Ryder Cup matches with a smile on his face.
“It was nice to play with Keegan,” he said. “He has played phenomenal golf. We provided a lot of energy for each other and it has brought out the best in us.
“Even though this is my ninth tournament, it has been the most exhilarating experience at the Ryder Cup,” said Mickelson.