Emotional McIlroy leads Europe charge

2016-10-01 16:18
Rory McIlroy (Getty)

Chaska - An emotional Rory McIlroy led Europe's morning charge Saturday on day two of the Ryder Cup even as the United States clung to a 5-3 lead at Hazeltine.

Third-ranked McIlroy and Belgium's Thomas Pieters went off first for Europe against Americans Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in morning alternate shot foursomes matches, Pieters first facing the crucible of 1,500 screaming spectators just after dawn at the first tee and putting his tee shot into the fairway.

"We're not going down without a fight," McIlroy said.

Americans swept Friday foursomes 4-0, their best start since 1975, only for Europe to go 3-1 in afternoon four-ball matches to close the gap and seize momentum.

"We're still behind on the cards in boxing terms," McIlroy said. "We got hit by some pretty good punches out there, but we came back at them pretty well. Still a little bit to do, but momentum has definitely switched to our side.

"We've pulled it back a good bit, and we plan to pull it back even further."

The US squad is trying to snap a three-Cup losing streak to Europe, which has dominated by taking the trophy in eight of the past 10 editions of the biennial team golf matches, including the 2012 Miracle at Medinah when Europe made the greatest last-day rally in Cup history to keep the trophy.

McIlroy's vigorous yells of "Come on," during his 3-and-2 victory Friday with Pieters in four-ball over US Open champion Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, were followed by bows to the crowd, one he saw as quite hostile, after an eagle putt at the par-5 16th hole closed out the match.

"I did that little celebration at Medinah and it's one I'll continue to do because it's a hostile environment out here and I want them to know how much it means to us," McIlroy said. "And sort of silence them and say, 'You're welcome.' It's nice to do that sometimes."

McIlroy, coming off a title at the US PGA's season-ending Tour Championship last weekend, is 3-0 in winning the Cup and hopes his victory dance inspires teammates as well.

"I wanted to put an exclamation point on that session for us," McIlroy said. "I honestly actually thought about the celebration before I hit the putt."

Europe captain Darren Clarke broke up his star pairing of Olympic champion Justin Rose and British Open champion Henrik Stenson -- who went 1-1 Friday against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed -- to pair them with newcomers in Saturday foursomes.

England's Rose will join countryman Chris Wood against PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker and two-time major champion Zach Johnson, who won in foursomes Friday.

Stenson and England's Matthew Fitzpatrick, the youngest player in the event at 22, come up against Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka.

The last morning match sees Spieth and Reed facing Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello, who teamed to win Friday in four-balls. It was Garcia's 16th tandem triumph and Cabrera Bello's Ryder Cup debut.

"This is very special for us," Garcia said. "He was a rock out there and he gave me so much confidence to go for shots."

Cabrera Bello was honored to debut alongside Garcia, mindful of the past Ryder Cup super pairings of compatriots Seve Ballesteros and Jose-Maria Olazabal.

"Having my Ryder Cup debut with a good friend and a countryman was extremely special," he said.

Competition continues with four afternoon four-ball matches and concludes Sunday with 12 singles matches. Europe need 14 points to keep the Cup while the US team needs 14 1/2 points to take the trophy.

Read more on:    ryder cup  |  rory mcilroy  |  golf

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