The U.S. needs a herculean effort Sunday if it’s to retain the Ryder Cup.
It’s not going to happen.
Not the way the first two days have gone at Le Golf National, it isn’t.
Patrick Reed, aka Captain America, hasn’t raged once. The mighty Tiger Woods has stepped to the plate three times and lost all three times. Phil Mickelson played so poorly in his lone appearance Friday that he was benched Saturday and reduced to having his belly rubbed for good luck by Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, who have been two of the few bright U.S. stars.
The list goes on and on, but you get the point.
“We’ve got some work to do tomorrow,” said Woods, who won last week’s Tour Championship but has looked tired and dejected and in need of a good night’s sleep. “Hopefully we can get off to a quick start and get up in some of these matches and turn the tide.
“Everything feels pretty good. Just pretty (ticked) off, the fact that I lost three matches, and didn’t feel like I played poorly. That’s the frustrating thing about match play. We can play well, and nothing can happen.”
Overall, the team hasn’t played well and not much has happened. Europe has had all the mojo since trailing 3-0 Friday morning, winning each day, 5-3, and winning a Ryder Cup record-tying eight consecutive matches to build up a significant 10-6 lead.
But it’s not insurmountable.
In 1999, then-U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw said, “I’ve got a feeling,” when his troops trailed 10-6 going into the final day, then watched them storm back to win the Ryder Cup. But that controversial match was played in front of an over-the-top, etiquette-challenged home crowd at Brookline in Boston. And Europe was a very young and inexperienced team.
The U.S. won’t find either at Le Golf National.
While the USA’s firepower has fizzled, Europe’s has sizzled, especially from the likes of Ryder Cup veterans Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy, and the undefeated duo of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood. Molinari and Fleetwood became the first European team to go 4-0 in a Ryder Cup. Three of those wins came against Woods.
Europe, not the U.S., is the only team to come back from a four-point, last-day deficit on foreign soil to win. In 2012 at Medinah, north of Chicago, then-captain Jose Maria Olazabal said, “Believe,” and then watched his squad storm to victory.
Rose was on that team, as was McIlroy, Garcia, Molinari and Poulter. You can be sure they will be in the ears of their teammates Saturday night in the team room reminding them that what seems impossible is possible, so complacency better not get to the first tee.
Four American players, including Woods and Mickelson, as well as U.S. captain Jim Fuyrk, were on that 2012 team, so they know it’s possible. They, too, will be in the ears of their teammates in the team room.
The U.S. could also perhaps latch on to this little nugget — Europe won the last two matches on Saturday in 2012 to gain momentum heading into Sunday. The U.S. won the last two matches on Saturday to cut the deficit to 10-6.
But where once the U.S. was a forgone conclusion to win the singles session, the Americans can no longer bank on a Sunday rescue as Europe has won in singles five of the last eight playings of the Ryder Cup.
The U.S. has to win early and often in the 12 singles matches.
“Early wins go a long way tomorrow,” Spieth said.
“Anything can happen,” U.S. Open and PGA champion Brooks Koepka said. “We’ve got a few guys that are playing well, and you just need to try to find some motivation, some momentum, anything you can to really build on.”