Stage set for Sunday singles
Tens of thousands watching in the grandstands and fairways, millions more with attention tuned to radios and television sets at home, the eyes of the world were on Medinah Country Club in Chicago as José María Olazábal’s Europe began their quest to stage the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
In the fading light and in sinking sun of Saturday, Europe had kept themselves in with a chance of regaining the Samuel Ryder Trophy come Sunday evening after the 12 singles matches are complete thanks to the heroics of Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and – most emphatically – Ian Poulter, who birdied the last five holes to claim a one hole victory over Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods.
Beginning the day four points behind the Americans, and in need of eight wins from 12 to retain The Ryder Cup, play got underway at Medinah at precisely 11.03 as Donald, wearing the navy blue sweater and trousers with a white polo shirt in honour of the late Seve Ballesteros, found the middle of the fairway with his opening drive against the popular Bubba Watson.
The first tee was again a cacophony of noise with the huge swathes of crowd – many donned in red for the Americans – whipped into a fervour of support in the build-up to proceedings.
In warm and bright sunshine, then, Captain Olazábal and his team’s sizeable task of overhauling a lead of this side for the first time in The Ryder Cup since Brookline in 1999 began.
The early stages boded well for an impending classic, as Donald and Watson halved the opening hole in birdies before Europe gained a one hole lead as the American could only bogey the short second.
In the second group out, meanwhile, yesterday’s hero Poulter and Webb Simpson quickly followed suit, the Englishman continuing his quite incredible Ryder Cup spirit with a chip-in for birdie on the first, while Simpson followed him in with a 15 foot birdie putt.
After the American had made par at the short second, an uncharacteristic three-putt for Poulter proved costly, however, as Davis Love III’s side took the early lead in that encounter.