Europe seizes Ryder Cup command

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

GLENEAGLES, Scotland -- It's 10-6 going into the final day of the Ryder Cup -- again.

This time, Europe's in the lead and it's the United States needing a stunning Sunday comeback.

Two years after the "Miracle of Medinah," where Europe overcome a 10-6 deficit to win 14-13, the home team leads by the same score after dominating the foursomes matches at Gleneagles on Saturday.

But Europe, too, know what it's like to throw away a 10-6 lead. Back in 1999 in Brookline, the U.S. overturned that same margin to win 14-13.

Europe, which has captured seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, needs four points from Sunday's 12 singles to retain the trophy and 4 points to win it outright.

Europe captain Paul McGinley warned his players against complacency, saying they can't afford to lose any momentum on Sunday.

"We've got a lot of work to do tomorrow," he said. "You only have to look back two years ago what happened on away soil. We all see how quickly it can turn around."

U.S. captain Tom Watson said his team was up to the challenge.

"As I recall, there's been a little bit of history with 10-6 comebacks. The players are already talking about that," he said. "I have a trust in my players that they can get it done. They know absolutely what they have to do.

"We've got to smoke 'em. We've got to take them out early."

The captains took opposite approaches to Sunday's singles order.

Looking for an early spark, Watson put his three youngest players at the top of the order, leading off with 21-year-old rookie Jordan Spieth, followed by 24-year old rookie Patrick Reed and 25-year-old Rickie Fowler.

"It was time to get the rookies a chance to see what they have got," Watson said. "If they can turn the tide right there, it would give us a boost that the rest of the team can handle."

McGinley, meanwhile, front-loaded his lineup with established veterans. Out first will be former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, followed by Henrik Stenson and No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy.

McGinley said he picked McDowell to play the first match because he's a "real fighter" who can set the tone.

McGinley is sending out his youngest player -- 24-year-old rookie Victor Dubuisson -- to play the final match. Dubuisson, who has won both of his foursomes, will face Zach Johnson.

McGinley was asked if Watson was taking a risk by putting his rookies out first.

"He's going with guys who are out there to try and make a reputation for themselves, playing on away soil," he said. "Coming back from a deficit of four points down would be a big motivating factor. It's important that our guys are ready for that."

Saturday's play began with Europe leading 5-3. The United States won 2 points in the morning fourballs to cut the lead to 6-5.

The Europeans seized command in the afternoon, winning three of the alternate-shot matches and halving the fourth. It was the second day in a row Europe grabbed 3 points from the foursomes.

Lee Westwood and rookie Jamie Donaldson got the ball rolling, beating Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar 2 and 1 in the first foursomes.

Then, McDowell and Dubuisson extended the lead to 8-5, beating Fowler and Jimmy Walker 5 and 4. Fowler remains without a win in his Ryder Cup career.

The third win of the afternoon came from McIlroy and Garcia, who defeated Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan 3 and 2. It was the marquee duo's first win in three matches after two halves.

In the final match, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer halved with Spieth and Reed. With the Americans 1-up going to the final hole, Europe got up and down from a greenside bunker. Rose holed a 5-foot birdie putt to earn the half point.

The morning session featured a record-breaking performance by Rose and Stenson, who finished with 10 straight birdies to beat Bubba Watson and Kuchar 3 and 2.

The European duo's 12-under score was a Ryder Cup record in fourballs. The 21-under total for the two pairings was also a record.

"It's hard to reflect on it when you're playing, but 21 birdies in 16 holes between us, that's something special," Stenson said. "It might be a highlight to put on the big screen with the grandkids one day."

Left out of both sessions was Phil Mickelson, marking the first time the American has been omitted from an entire day's play in 10 Ryder Cups.

"I played him two rounds yesterday and he was tired last night," Watson said. "He was exhausted."

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