Spieth and Thomas provided a big, emotional lift with a win that averted a European sweep of the morning’s matches and came up with another big win in the afternoon, as did Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, who beat Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren. But it was Spieth and Thomas who battled down the stretch, both times against a pairing that included Ian Poulter.
“Ian pounded his chest this morning, and I was waiting for the right moment [to strut],” Spieth told NBC after the second match. “To win the match this afternoon felt like the right time.
“Clearly we’re down four points, so in the scheme of things, we shouldn’t necessarily be celebrating, but for us two to get that point and the way that we played today and the battle that we had with those guys [Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy] both matches, it was emotional. It was awesome. It feels like you’re competing on a Sunday in a major every single hole in the Ryder Cup.”
Team USA has its work cut out for it, though, and Spieth acknowledged that. Sunday’s format switches to singles and all 12 golfers on each side play a full round with 12 points up for grabs. The U.S. needs to reach 14 points to retain the Cup; Europe needs 14½.
Sunday’s pairings were announced a few hours after play ended Saturday. The day will begin with Justin Thomas vs. Rory McIlroy at 6:05 a.m. Eastern time. The rest of the schedule:
6:17 a.m.: Paul Casey vs. Brooks Koepka
6:29 a.m.: Webb Simpson vs. Justin Rose
6:41 a.m.: Tiger Woods vs. Jon Rahm
6:53 a.m.: Tony Finau vs. Tommy Fleetwood
7:05 a.m.: Dustin Johnson vs. Ian Poulter
7:17 a.m.: Jordan Spieth vs. Thorbjorn Olesen
7:29 a.m.: Rickie Fowler vs. Sergio Garcia
7:41 a.m.: Phil Mickelson vs. Francesco Molinari
7:53 a.m.: Patrick Reed vs. Tyrrell Hatton
8:05 a.m.: Bubba Watson vs. Henrik Stenson
8:17 a.m.: Bryson DeChambeau vs. Alex Noren
“Our match was big and we knew we needed a win to stay four points down going into singles and we did. I feel like our team in singles is very solid,” Spieth said of Saturday’s afternoon match. “ . . . Obviously, we’d like to be in the lead, but I really like this team. If we have any team that can be down four [and win], this one can do it.”
Spieth and Thomas salvaged a victory over Poulter and Rahm in the last of the early matches Saturday morning when, with teammates and coaches looking and a good-luck belly rub from Phil Mickelson waiting, Thomas made a clutch putt for a 2-and-1 win that gave the U.S. a glimmer of hope as it trailed Europe, 8-4, going into the later matches.
U.S. captain Jim Furyk elected not to disrupt his pairings from Friday, altering only the golfers' order of play and in the early four-ball matches, there was precious little magic to be found for the U.S., or for Woods, who won a stirring victory less than a week ago in the Tour Championship.
Tony Finau, paired with Brooks Koepka, rallied the U.S., winning three straight holes at one point, but the putting of Garcia, paired with McIlroy, carried the European duo to a 2-and-1 victory that marked the sixth straight point for Europe.
“I think we gelled and that’s what you need in four-ball,” Garcia said in an NBC interview. McIlroy acknowledged he “didn’t have my best stuff out there this morning, but Sergio was encouraging me. His passion for the Ryder Cup is second to none and it was pretty infectious.”
That gave Europe a 6-3 lead that grew to 7-3 when Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton topped Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler 3 and 2. Molinari and Fleetwood stuffed Woods and Patrick Reed for an 8-3 lead and earned the “Moliwood” nickname.
Molinari (who nearly had a hole in one at one point) and Fleetwood fired up the team and the crowd at Le Golf National just outside Paris. Back at home, where his wife is expecting a baby, Molinari’s golfer brother, Edoardo, talked a little trash.
Only last week, crowds were roaring for Woods when he won the Tour Championship, but Woods missed a 20-foot putt that would have extended the match, with Molinari and Fleetwood winning and maintaining the pressure on the U.S. from the 5-3 lead Europe took Friday.
“Massively important,” Molinari said, when asked how important it was to keep pushing. “Obviously, we were super happy yesterday but the message was to keep pushing.”
Spieth and Thomas did just that, as did Watson and Simpson. The U.S. knows it will need a big day Sunday, but at least Molinari and Fleetwood will be separated.
“The idea,” Spieth said, “is to take care of your match in front of you. You look at the scoreboard, you start counting points up it does no good for us.”
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