Five things we learnt on Saturday at The Ryder Cup
Thomas Pieters is the real deal
We have seen first-hand on the European Tour just how good Thomas Pieters is, and now the world has with the Belgian enjoying an amazing Saturday at Hazeltine National Golf Club. The 24 year old lost his Friday foursomes match alongside Lee Westwood before winning his afternoon fourballs match with Rory McIlroy in such style that captain Darren Clarke decided to stick with the pair for Saturday.
And they repaid Clarke by producing some unbelievable golf to dispose of Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson 4&2 in the morning foursomes, before Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson felt the force of Team Europe’s new big-hitting pairing in the afternoon fourballs, going down 3&1.
While McIlroy showed off his obvious talent, at times in session four it was Pieters who was left to fend off the Americans – something he relished as the duo went a combined 11 under par through 17 holes to help Pieters become the first European rookie to win three points before the singles since Sergio Garcia in 1999.
It also puts Pieters within half a point of the all-time European Ryder Cup rookie record.
Fearless, confident and very talented, TP has enjoyed a fine Ryder Cup debut so far.
Patrick Reed is Captain America
The 26 year old American came to Hazeltine with a reputation for being a competent and tough match player, something Reed earnt following a fine performance at Gleneagles at the last Ryder Cup. After two days of the 2016 edition the Texan has confirmed why he will be such a force in Ryder Cups to come, with a passionate, high-quality display that has inspired his teammates.
Reed has lost just one of his four matches so far in Minnesota, with his Saturday afternoon fourballs performance here likely to go down in American Ryder Cup folklore if the hosts can win the Samuel Ryder trophy back. Holing out from 140 yards on the ninth hole was the highlight of Reed’s day as he carried an out of sorts Jordan Spieth to victory over Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, largely thanks to six birdies in his last 11 holes.
Trusted by Davis Love III to face the European heavyweight pairings, Reed has now faced Stenson in four of his last five matches, winning three of those tussles.
Reed and Spieth have also now tied the late Arnold Palmer and Gardner Dickinson as the only other US partnership to win five matches together, in a record the pair will surely break soon considering their age.
Ladies and gentlemen, Patrick Reed, a thorn in the sides of Europeans at Ryder Cups for many years to come.
Team Europe need to evoke the spirit of the Miracle of Medinah
At one point late into the Saturday fourballs Europe looked like they were on course to restrict USA to a one point lead heading into the Sunday singles, only for the hosts to snatch vital points at the death. All that means we go into the final day three points down, which although far from ideal, is a better situation than the one we found ourselves in at the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Team Europe were trailing 10-4 at one point on Saturday evening and 10-6 at the start of the Sunday singles at Medinah, with everyone writing them off. What followed was one of the most spectacular sporting comebacks ever witnessed, as José María Olazábal’s took inspiration from the spirit of the legendary Seve Ballesteros, who had passed away the year before, to comeback and triumph by one point.
Spirit, inspiration and a similar comeback is needing again in Hazeltine. Never write Team Europe off.
Rory loves a roar
Although Rory has achieved so much in his relatively young career already, the Northern Irishman is not known for showing too much emotion on the course.
At least until this week that is. Ever since taking to the course early on Friday morning McIlroy has shown just how much The Ryder Cup means to him, with a series of shouts, fist pump celebrations and hugs with his partners Andy Sullivan and Thomas Pieters.
The hostility from an at times partisan American crowd only served to further inspire McIlroy, who has taken to his new role as a senior member of the European team with ease, collecting three points from his four games so far at the 2016 Ryder Cup, all alongside Pieters.
We like roaring Rory and if his results this week are anything to go by, it does his game no harm either.
The rookies have been just fine
Coming into this week Clarke had to field many questions about how he would prepare the six rookies in his team for the cauldron that is an away Ryder Cup match. The captain seemed confident in his rookies and his confidence was well founded with some of them producing the goods on the biggest of stages.
Pieters’ superb performances stand out, but he is by no means the only of the six to make a positive impression here in front of a loud, partisan American crowd, with Rafa Cabrera Bello and Chris Wood also enjoying good debuts. Rafa is yet to lose a Ryder Cup match having partnered his compatriot Sergio Garcia in both of the ties he has contested. Their fight back from four down early on with in the Saturday afternoon foursomes against Reed and Spieth, to level things up at the 18th hole was one of the European highlights of this Ryder Cup so far.
Wood’s debut victory alongside Justin Rose against Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker, will be the highlight of the Englishman’s career to date, although Europe will be hoping there is more to come from this talented group of rookies in the singles.