A high-octane United States take a commanding 11-5 lead into Sunday’s singles at the Ryder Cup, where Europe need an unprecedented comeback to retain the coveted golf trophy.
The Americans, hungry for victory after losing four of the last five editions, including in 2018 in France, need just 3.5 points from Sunday’s 12 singles matches while Europe need nine to reach the 14 points they require to retain it.
With nine of the world’s top 11 players to send out, US captain Steve Stricker was nonetheless insisting that the hosts remained on guard.
“It’s not over yet, Stricker said Saturday night — and European counterpart Padraig Harrington said the same, even if it sounded a bit more desperate on his part.
No team has come back from a deficit of more than four points to win the biennial match play showdown, being played this year after a one-year coronavirus pandemic delay.
The United States rallied from 10-6 down to win at Brookline in Massachusetts in 1999 and Europe battled back from 10-6 in the “Miracle at Medinah” in 2012.
“I know that was a four-point gap,” Harrington said, “but these things can be done.”
America’s Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele leads the charge in the opening singles at 11:04 (1604 GMT), taking on a European Ryder Cup stalwart who has failed to fire so far this week: Rory McIlroy.
Schauffele, a two-time runner-up in major championships, has thrived in his first Ryder Cup, winning all three of his matches in foursomes and four-balls play.
McIlroy, meanwhile, has lost all three of his matches in his sixth Cup appearance and been held of one session for the first time in his career.
Patrick Cantlay, winner of four US PGA Tour titles this year including the Tour Championship that sealed his FedEx Cup playoff crown, has won two and drawn one in his Ryder Cup debut.
He’ll face another newcomer in battling Shane Lowry, the 2019 British Open champion who showed his mettle in a Saturday four-balls win, draining an 11-foot par putt to seal a 1-up victory alongside Tyrrell Hatton against Harris English and Tony Finau.
One of the few matches in which Europe can be considered strong favorites, world number one Jon Rahm takes on 21st-ranked Scottie Scheffler.
Rahm has been outstanding for Europe, winning 3.5 points over the first two days, while Scheffler, although he hasn’t always looked his best, hasn’t lost a match yet teaming with Bryson DeChambeau in four-balls.
Big-hitting DeChambeau takes on Sergio Garcia in match four, then comes reigning British Open champion Collin Morikawa against Viktor Hovland and in the sixth match world number two Dustin Johnson faces European veteran Paul Casey.
Johnson has keyed the US surge this week, with four victories in four matches so far.
A singles victory on Sunday would make him the first American since Larry Nelson in 1979 to go five-from-five — but Europe will need to conjure early magic for Johnson’s result even to carry meaning.