“Well, we’ve got 12 that are playing really well, so we didn’t know what to do”.
Willett’s gone scoreless in two matches so far but he was paired with the two worst performers on the team the last two days and still played some solid golf.
Love, after all, was the man who oversaw a dramatic USA collapse on the fateful IL golf course in 2012 as Europe overcame a four point deficit to claim a remarkable final day victory.
The good times seemingly could be better for Team Europe, which finds itself down, 9 1/2 to 6 1/2, going into Sunday’s singles matches, but McIlroy proved that he can dish out it out as well as he could take it.
The deficit was no fault of McIlroy and Pieters, their top pairing on both of the day’s sessions.
McIlroy, all high-fives, fist pumps and eye-bulging reaction, was as animated as he has ever been in the Ryder Cup as he and Belgian rookie Thomas Pieters took their record to 3-0 this week by beating Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson 3 and 1.
Justin Rose, who beat Phil Mickelson in match four at Medinah and halved with Hunter Mahan in the same position at Gleneagles, added on Sky Sports: “I’ve had success at number four and whether it is superstition (or not), you don’t mess with a good thing”. “I have a sore head listening to all those the last day, day and a half. I tried to get him removed”, the Northern Irishman said. While the majority of the fans at Hazeltine National GC have been good-natured, cheering on their side and also good shots, more than a few have been terrible, hurling ugly comments at the European players.
McIlroy rolled in a 40-foot bomb of a putt for birdie and roared in delight, playing to the suddenly silenced, pro-American crowd by putting his hand to his ear and shouting, “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you”, in extravagant fashion.
“You’re always going to have one or two idiots that say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and you know, unfortunately … that’s happened”. It’s about who plays the best golf that day. “Yeah, you’ve got to keep your concentration out there”. “The American guys played very well”. Mickelson rebounded from a poor showing Friday by winning a point against Garcia in fourball, and Sergio struggles with his putter cost Europe in that match.
European captain Darren Clarke described the opening singles match as “mouthwatering” for the crowd.
Mark James played in the Ryder Cup seven times and captained the European side at Brookline in 1999.
Europe has six Ryder Cup rookies who have never experienced anything like what they will go through Sunday. “I was just so proud to be alongside him”.
On Saturday, however, he and Pieters clicked in their first alternate-shot match together, piling up six birdies in 16 holes to win comfortably against error-prone opponents. McIlroy and Pieters then remained hot by beating Johnson and Koepka, the third time the Europeans won a match.
The match between Sergio Garcia – who was inexplicably not paired with his Spanish compatriot Rafael Cabrera-Bello despite two brilliant outings – and an out-of-form Martin Kaymer against Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar was a story of putts made and missed.
Europe face a challenge of quasi-Medinah proportions today to retain the Ryder Cup, a trophy that has been in their possession since 2010.