Sept. 21-26, 2021 Whistling Straits, Kohler, WI
43rd Ryder Cup - Afternoon Fourball Matches
Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

KOHLER, Wis. – Maybe Tony Finau was right. He said this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup Team was something new, something fresh, something, well, different than the teams of years past that had produced puzzling results for the better part of three decades.

Finau was one of the team’s youngest players three years ago in Paris, and now, at 32, is one of its oldest. He looks across the world-class youthful additions to this year’s team and senses a culture change.

So far, so good for this U.S. team, which has as much talent as it does depth. A hard-fought 2-2 result in the Saturday afternoon Four-Ball session following a 3-1 Foursomes result in the morning kept the U.S. moving forward, and with a commanding 11-5 lead heading into Sunday, it will take something historic to defeat them.

Only twice in the history of the event has a team come back from as far as four points down on Sunday, when 12 Singles points are at stake. The U.S. (1999, Brookline) and Europeans (2012, Medinah), both pulled it off. This mountain is higher. Europe needs 14 points to retain the Cup that it won in Paris three years ago; that means it would need to go no worse than 9-3 in Singles.

“It’s all about believing,” said Europe’s Shane Lowry, who scratched out a victory with Tyrrell Hatton against Finau and Harris English. “I was reading something last night. If you have a 1 percent chance, you have to have 100 percent faith.”

It certainly won’t be easy. This Ryder Cup week, the U.S. team refuses to surrender an inch. Even with plenty of European blue on the scoreboard Saturday afternoon, the U.S. was determined to make sure their visitors at Whistling Straits had as little hope as possible. Texans Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler flipped a match in which they trailed against Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland, giving the U.S. a 2-2 result. It won the first three sessions by 3-1 margins.

“This afternoon session was an important one,” said U.S. Captain Steve Stricker. “If they blank us (4-0), they get right back in the game. Splitting the session was a good outcome for us.”

Dustin Johnson, the oldest player on the team at 37 and its most experienced player (fifth Ryder Cup), ran his record to 4-0 with a Four-Ball triumph alongside Collin Morikawa against European Ryder Cup stalwarts Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy. Neither European player has earned a point heading into Sunday.

Outside of the powerhouse Spanish tandem of World No. 1 Jon Rahm and 10-time Ryder Cup veteran Sergio Garcia, who have combined to win three matches, the European Team has done little to challenge the U.S. to this point.

“I'm sure they know they have a very tall order ahead of them, but it's still possible,” said Europe Captain Padraig Harrington. “At the end of the day, as I said at Medinah (where Europe turned a 10-6 deficit into victory), it's only half a point more than we won in the singles at Medinah.

“Individually, it's not really that important in the sense of the team. They have to just go out there and win their own individual match. There's nothing more they can do than that. They have to focus on that and not look at that bigger picture and focus on their individual self and play their game and win that, and then just see how it adds up.”

Johnson can be the fourth American player in history to go 5-0 should he win his Singles match, joining Gardner Dickinson, Arnold Palmer (both went 5-0 in 1967) and Larry Nelson (1979). Rookies Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa each could finish 4-0 with victories on Sunday.

The 12 Singles matches begin at 11:04 a.m. CST.

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