NEWPORT, Wales – As bad as the United States played to start the Ryder Cup’s final team session, there was a time when it looked like the Americans could enter Monday’s singles tied with Europe.
But their inability to close out the few matches they had a chance to win in the third session leaves them with a tough task. Europe’s 9 1/2-6 1/2 lead means it must win only five of the 12 available points to regain the Cup.
The United States is often thought to be the favorite in singles. Europe, however, has won the past two singles sessions on its home soil, 16-8.
The back end of the United States’ lineup started to rally early in the back nine Sunday, but couldn’t maintain the momentum.
At one point Sunday afternoon, the final three matches stood as follows:
• Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar were 1 up through 14 against the Molinari brothers, after Kuchar made an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-3 13th and both teams parred the next hole.
• Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler were all square with Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer through 13 holes after being as much as 3 down. Fowler holed a bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 11th.
• Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton, who holed out for eagle to win the par-4 eighth, were all square through 15 holes against Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
If those results held, the Ryder Cup would’ve been knotted at 8 points apiece heading into singles.
But that’s when things started to go downhill.
• Fowler’s eagle on 11 drew his team closer, but it was Mickelson’s 12-foot birdie putt two holes later that squared the match. It seemed the United States was in the midst of a spirited rally. Instead, it lost the next two holes.
Mickelson three-putted from 50 feet on the par-4 14th to give Poulter-Kaymer a 1-up lead. Neither American could birdie the driveable 15th, and Poulter made a 10-foot birdie to virtually clinch the match.
• When Watson parred the difficult 14th to even his match, it looked like Watson and Overton were going to be the unlikely stars for the Stars and Stripes. But it was one of the shortest-hitting men at Celtic Manor that got the best of America’s bombers.
Jimenez holed a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to take a 1-up lead. He hit his approach to 18 within 10 feet to force the Americans to make birdie to halve the match. They could not.
• Cink and Kuchar also failed to birdie the short 15th, and Francesco Molinari drove the green. The United States regained its 1-up lead when Francesco missed a 4-foot par putt on No. 16, though. But its inability to birdie 18 led to a vital one-point swing in the day’s last match.
Francesco hit an aggressive approach to 3 feet and made the birdie, halving the match and making amends for his short miss two holes earlier.
The United States’ performance Sunday was in stark contrast to the Ryder Cup’s first two days, when it seemed to make its share of important putts. After the hole it has dug itself, the U.S. will have to make plenty of them Monday if it hopes to retain the Ryder Cup.