McIlroy, Garcia rally late for afternoon halve

AUCHTERARDER, Scotland – Rickie Fowler and rookie Jimmy Walker appeared poised to do the unthinkable late Friday afternoon at Gleneagles’ Centenary Course: That is, to send Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, ranked Nos. 1 and 3 in the world, to a second consecutive defeat.

Walking down to the green at the 17th hole 2 down, Garcia turned to McIlroy and said, “The beautiful thing about this is that we know what we need to do.”

As in, find some late birdies. They found them, too. McIlroy kept Europe alive with a huge 35-footer for birdie at the par-3 17th, and a sensational second shot from Garcia from 215 yards out led to an easy two-putt birdie at the last as Europe scrambled for a hard-earned half point.

“Thankfully,” McIlroy said of his partner, “he saved his best shot of the day for last.”

Check out the complete Friday leaderboard here.

McIlroy and Garcia struggled to hit fairways, and Fowler and Walker had them on the ropes. The U.S. was 2 up after 12 holes and led 2 up again after 15, where the Europeans missed yet another fairway and made bogey.

But the birdie-birdie-birdie finish showed something, and each man did something late to make the highlight reel. Neither one will soon forget the 5-wood Garcia hit from the right rough from 229 yards onto the green at 18, or McIlroy’s improbable birdie at 17 that kept the two alive.

“The putt he made was probably, oh, 1 in 20,” Garcia said. “It was amazing.”

Earlier, McIlroy and Garcia lost to Phil Mickelson-Keegan Bradley when they failed to birdie the final hole in four-balls.

“I felt like I owed him a lot today,” Garcia said.

“We owed each other a lot, I think.” answered McIlroy.

It was the second time of the day Fowler and Walker went down 18, and the second match where they came away with a half point. Fowler had 235 yards from the rough for a second shot and managed to advance the ball into the front bunker. Walker’s bunker shot did not carry far enough, leaving Fowler with a 22-footer that he missed to the left.

Earlier in the day, Fowler and Walker were the ones who flipped a deficit, with Walker making birdies at two of the last three holes as the U.S. tandem caught Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer.

“We played good all day,” Walker said. “It was a tough day. The wind was blowing and we were in control of the match. Rory made the bomb on 17 and there was nothing we could do about that.”

• • •

Recap the match’s highlights right here – and scroll down for bios on the players involved.

Hole No. 18: Par 5, 513 yards

A bad drive by Rory McIlroy is more than negated by Sergio Garcia’s second shot from the rough – it finds the back of the green just past pin-high and leaves a moderate eagle try for McIlroy. The duo has hit just three of 14 fairways today but has somehow stayed in this match despite the solid play of Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker. Their second shot ends up in the greenside front bunker, from which Walker can’t wedge the ball to the back shelf where the pin is. All eyes turn to McIlroy, who has about 25 feet for eagle; his speed and line are good as the ball stops about a putterhead from the hole. Fowler must now make a tough 10-footer to halve the hole and win the match. That one dives well left and the Euros’ rally is successful.


• • •

Hole No. 17: Par 3, 194 yards

Rory McIlroy jars a long birdie putt here to not only keep the match going but pull the Euros closer.

MATCH SCORE: Fowler-Walker lead, 1 up.

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Hole No. 15: Par 4, 463 yards

A European bogey gives Rickie Fowler an easy two-putt to extend the Americans’ lead; after a lag the hole is conceded.

MATCH SCORE: Fowler-Walker lead, 2 up.

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Hole No. 13: Par 4, 445 yards

The Americans bogey and Sergio Garcia easily lags a short one close enough for a concession to cut the Euros’ deficit in half.

MATCH SCORE: Fowler-Walker lead, 1 up.

• • •

Hole No. 12: Par 4, 445 yards

Sergio Garcia misses a par putt inside 10 feet, opening the door for the Americans to extend their lead – and Rickie Fowler makes to do just that.

MATCH SCORE: Fowler-Walker lead, 2 up.

• • •

Hole No. 11: Par 4, 350 yards

Jimmy Walker’s approach gets Rickie Fowler inside 10 feet for a birdie look, and the Oklahoma State product sinks the putt to move the American duo out front for the first time in this match.

MATCH SCORE: Fowler-Walker lead, 1 up.

• • •

Hole No. 8: Par 4, 419 yards

After the Americans square the match with a par at the seventh, Sergio Garcia and Jimmy Walker hole birdie putts here to keep the status quo.

MATCH SCORE: All square.

• • •

Hole No. 6: Par 3, 201 yards

Rory McIlroy’s tee shot isn’t as close as Jimmy Walker’s, but Sergio Garcia makes and Rickie Fowler misses – lifting the Euros on top again.

MATCH SCORE: Garcia-McIlroy lead, 1 up.

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Hole No. 5: Par 4, 461 yards

An out-of-bounds drive by Sergio Garcia sets the Euros back here, and a Jimmy Walker two-putt for bogey wins the hole.

MATCH SCORE: All square.

• • •

Hole No. 3: Par 4, 431 yards

A bogey by the Americans sets them back.

MATCH SCORE: Garcia-McIlroy lead, 1 up.

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Hole No. 2: Par 5, 516 yards

Birdies here keep the match even.

MATCH SCORE: All square.

• • •

Hole No. 1: Par 4, 426 yards

Sergio Garcia earns a chance to win the first hole with a long birdie try, but misses short and low. Pars halve the hole.

MATCH SCORE: All square.

• • •

Rickie Fowler

2014 PGA Tour highlights: 24 starts, eight top 10s, including two-runner-up finishes (U.S. Open, Open Championship)

Ryder Cup experience: Second appearance; 0-1-3 record

Buzz: Fowler has been stellar in the majors this year, with top-five finishes in each of them this season. He also has a pair of top 10s in WGC events and a T-9 at The Barclays, too, so he knows how to step up on the biggest of stages.

• • •

Jimmy Walker

2014 PGA Tour highlights: 25 starts, three wins, 10 top 10s

Ryder Cup experience: Making first appearance; 0-0-1 record

Buzz: Walker won three times in his first nine starts this season, and although he hasn’t won again, he still has 11 top 25s in his last 17 starts. He was T-9 at the Deutsche Bank.

• • •

Rory McIlroy

• World Ranking: 1

• Third Ryder Cup appearance; 4-4-2 record.

• Tait’s take: Although he’s only 25, the World No. 1 will be seen as vital to Europe’s chances of winning the match for the third successive time, and seventh time in last nine matches. He is without doubt the star of the European team. Two major wins this year attest to his place atop the world order. He campaigned hard for McGinley to get the captaincy. Expect Rory to play all five sessions.

• • • 

Sergio Garcia

Spain, age 34

• World ranking: 3

• Third Ryder Cup appearance; 16-9-4 record

• Tait’s take: Loves the Ryder Cup and has the ability to aggravate the opposition. He excels in fourballs and foursomes, having only ever lost two matches in either format. His singles record pales in comparison, with just two wins against four losses. So that will be a concern for McGinley and could dictate a middle-of-the-lineup start in the final session at Gleneagles.

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