The captains gave the golf world what it wanted for Sunday’s singles at the Ryder Cup.
With the U.S. leading 9 ½ - 6 ½ and needing five points to claim the Cup for the first time since 2008, captain Davis Love III frontloaded his lineup with strong players.
Meeting in the first singles match are the two hottest players at Hazeltine National, the U.S. star Patrick Reed vs. Rory McIlroy. There are plenty of other tasty battles sprinkled in as Europe looks to secure the 7 ½ points necessary to return the Cup across the Atlantic.
Every American registered at least one point during the first two days of competition and only Dustin Johnson (1-2-0) has a losing record. On the other hand, five Europeans have failed to score a point.
Here's what you need to know about the 12 matchups.
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) October 2, 2016
Match 1, 11:04 CT, Patrick Reed (US) v. Rory McIlroy (EUR)
Breakdown: Find a comfortable chair, grab a cold drink and settle in for what could be an epic match. The two inspirational, emotional and points leaders on each side battle in a meeting that will ratchet the on-course intensity from the opening tee shot. Reed has been the best U.S. player in the last two Ryder Cups, recording a 5-1-2 record. He defeated Henrik Stenson 1-up in singles in 2014 at Gleneagles. McIlroy, who was sensational in rolling to two victories Saturday, has a 2-0-1 career mark in the singles with victories over Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler. McIlroy - who blasted several drives more than 330 yards Saturday - has a significant advantage off the tee which means Reed can apply pressure by hitting his approach shot first. Both have putted beautifully.
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Match 2, 11:15 CT, Jordan Spieth (US) v. Henrik Stenson (EUR)
Breakdown: Spieth and Stenson played in the showcase matches throughout the first two days, but each struggled with his game for stretches. Spieth lost in singles to Graeme McDowell in 2014. Stenson is 1-3 this week and 1-2 in career Ryder Cup singles and might not be 100 percent as he recovers from a knee injury. He’s also playing his fifth match of the weekend, so fatigue could be an issue. When his iron game is sharp, he’s tough to beat.
Match 3, 11:26 CT, J.B. Holmes (US) v. Thomas Pieters (EUR)
Breakdown: No par-5 will be safe in this battle of bombers. Holmes made seven birdies in a four-balls victory Saturday and won his singles match in his lone Ryder Cup appearance - 2008, the last U.S. victory. Pieters has been a bright light for Europe, teaming with McIlroy for an unbeaten record. He’s been a terrific putter in the clutch this week.
Match 4, 11:37 CT, Rickie Fowler (US) v. Justin Rose (EUR)
Breakdown: Fowler is 0-2-0 in career singles matches, although he did score his first Ryder Cup match victory in a foursomes match paired with Phil Mickelson. Fowler didn’t have a terrific year, failing to make the Tour Championship, and fought his swing Saturday. Rose, the Olympic champion, is a tough competitor. He’s 2-0-1 in singles matches, beating Phil Mickelson twice. This is a match Europe must win if it hopes to pull a comeback.
Match 5, 11:48 CT, Jimmy Walker (US) v. Rafa Cabrera Bello (EUR)
Breakdown: Fun matchup between two relatively inexperienced smooth swingers. Each has acquitted himself just fine this week. Walker split two foursomes matches with Zach Johnson, so this is his first time playing his own ball at Hazeltine. He won his only other Ryder Cup singles match. Cabrera-Bello, one of six European rookies, is a consistent ballstriker who wouldn’t look out of place in a Formula One car or on a movie set. He’s been a cool cat under Ryder Cup heat.
Match 6, 11:59 CT, Phil Mickelson (US) v. Sergio Garcia (EUR)
Breakdown: Mickelson is playing his 11th Ryder Cup. Garcia is playing his eighth. Mickelson has a 5-5 career record, but has won his last two singles matches in international competition. He looked solid on the greens Saturday afternoon. Garcia has an incredible team record in the Ryder Cup but is 3-4 in singles, beating Jim Furyk twice. If he can handle the short putts, he’ll have a chance to beat another U.S. veteran.
Match 7, 12:10 CT, Ryan Moore (US) v. Lee Westwood (EUR)
Breakdown: Moore shook off a slow start in his Ryder Cup debut with a solid performance over his final 27 holes. He’s a streaky putter who won the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Public Links at match play in the same year. Westwood, playing on his 10th European side, has lost both matches this week and missed a 3-footer on 18 late Saturday to cost his team a half-point. Don’t be surprised if Moore is stingy conceding short putts.
Match 8, 12:21 CT, Brandt Snedeker (US) v. Andy Sullivan (EUR)
Breakdown: Snedeker has been a pleasant surprise for the Americans, pairing with Brooks Koepka to compile an unbeaten record. He should be fresh after playing two matches and looked loose while hanging with the Hazeltine Vikings behind the first tee early in the afternoon. Sullivan, a rookie, hasn’t been seen since early Friday morning when he and McIlroy blew a late lead against Mickelson and Fowler. If it reaches this point, Europe will be thrilled.
Match 9, 12:32 CT, Dustin Johnson (US) v. Chris Wood (EUR)
Breakdown: DJ has a 1-2 record this weekend, but it’s somewhat misleading. He and his partners have taken on some of Europe’s strongest pairs and been on the wrong end of the buzzsaw. He’s 2-0 in previous Ryder Cup singles matches. Chris Wood is 1-0 in his Ryder Cup debut. It’s difficult to decipher how he’ll play. Certainly nobody outside the Europe locker room expects him to win, which could work in his favor.
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Match 10, 12:43 CT, Brooks Koepka (US) v. Danny Willett (EUR)
Breakdown: Koepka has generated something of a cult following in the pro golf world, perhaps because he played several years in Europe before returning to the States full time. Regardless, he’s looked right at home this weekend earning praise from teammates and analysts en route to a 2-1 mark. Willett won the Masters, of course. He endured unnecessary drama brought on by his brother’s column earlier in the week and hasn’t made much of an impact on the matches, losing both appearances.
Match 11, 12:54 CT, Matt Kuchar (US) v. Martin Kaymer (EUR)
Breakdown: Kuchar has been another surprise for Love III, contributing to two wins in three matches. His singles record at the Ryder Cup is less impressive (1-2-0), but he is the 17th-ranked player in the world, consistent from tee-to-green and started holing putts Saturday. Kaymer, a two-time major champion, has dipped to 48th in the world and hasn’t looked worthy of his captain’s pick, dropping all three matches. He is 2-1-0 in Ryder Cup singles though, and of course sank the clinching putt at Medinah in 2012.
Match 12, 12:05 CT, Zach Johnson (US) v. Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR)
The U.S. hopes this match is irrelevant of course. But if it does come down to these two, Love III can feel confident he has the resident bulldog Johnson, who has played on four Ryder Cup teams and desperately wants to experience Sunday night as a winner. Johnson is 2-1-1 in singles and split two foursomes matches this week. Fitzpatrick, 22, is the youngest player on either team and has just one foursomes match to his credit this week. A two-time winner on the European Tour, having the weight of the Cup on his shoulders could be overwhelming.
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