Watson-Simpson win, US takes 9-4 lead on Europe
MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) -- This Ryder Cup is turning into a rout.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson trounced Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari 5 and 4 Saturday afternoon, giving the Americans the first of what is sure to be several points from the fourball matches. They lead 9-4, and are ahead in two other matches.
Even Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker are showing some life after three ugly performances.
"I keep telling the guys we're not even halfway over with this tournament so far," captain Davis Love III said after the morning matches. "There's a lot of points left. Let's keep doing what we're doing. They're buying into it. They're playing great."
The Americans need 14 1/2 points to regain the Ryder Cup. The largest comeback in Ryder Cup history was at Brookline in 1999, when the U.S. erased a 10-6 deficit on the final day.
The biggest lead going into the singles matches was 11-5 by Europe in 2004; the Europeans went on to win 18 1/2 to 9 1/2.
Watson and Simpson had the only U.S. loss Saturday morning, falling to Rose and Ian Poulter, 1 up. The Americans barely had time to catch their breath before coming out to face Rose and Molinari, but whatever they did during the break worked. Simpson, who struggled all morning, was unflappable, making seven birdies.
He gave them a big boost on the par-3 No. 8. Rose had put his tee shot a few feet from the pin, and the Americans immediately conceded the birdie. Watson's putt to halve the hole trickled long, but Simpson drained a 15-footer, raising his fist as the ball dropped.
He made another birdie on 10 to put the Americans 3 up, and the Europeans were scrambling simply to extend the match. But Simpson put his tee shot to 10 feet on the par-3 13th, and the Americans closed out the match on the next hole when Rose's birdie putt rolled around the edge of the cup but refused to drop.
"Rose and Poults played a great match this morning. They beat us fair and square," Watson said. "There was chances we had, we just didn't make them. But back here, our own ball, we got in our rhythm. I did the par-5s, and (Simpson) did the rest."
Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson -- who else? -- kick-started the Americans' big day in record-tying fashion, thrashing Lee Westwood and Luke Donald 7 and 6. The two are on such a roll they didn't even have to putt to win their first two holes. The Europeans conceded No. 1 when Mickelson put his second within 2 feet of the pin, and they gave the Americans No. 2 after Westwood put his tee shot in the water and missed the bogey putt.
Mickelson's gorgeous wedge set up Bradley with an 8-footer for birdie on No. 4, and he knocked it in easily, letting out a roar when the ball dropped into the cup. The Americans went 6 up when Donald had another putt lip out on 10, and the Europeans might as well have conceded then, the result was so inevitable.
Sure enough, two holes later, Mickelson played a perfect wedge from the rough, hitting the green about 20 feet left of the pin and trickling down a slope within a foot of the cup.
"Phil is a good partner to Keegan," Donald said. "He's obviously been a rock star this week, and they did nothing wrong."
The 7-and-6 win, in fact, matched the mark for most lopsided score in an 18-hole team match. Two other teams have won 7 and 6, both foursomes, with Paul Azinger and Mark O'Meara in 1991 the last to do it.
The victory made Bradley the first U.S. rookie to start 3-0 since Loren Roberts in 1995. And it handed Donald his second straight loss in foursomes after going unbeaten in his first six matches.
Two players, Gardner Dickinson and Larry Nelson, went 5-0 as rookies, but Love decided it was better for Bradley to get some rest than have a chance to go for the record.
"Historically and mathematically, the guys that have played five matches have not done as well in the singles," Mickelson said. "We want to make sure we're rested and focused."
The U.S. got another big boost in the final morning match - Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker's 1-up victory over Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
The Northern Irish duo are considered Europe's top team, the No. 1 player in the world and the guy who delivered the winning point for Europe two years ago at Celtic Manor. But they've looked almost ordinary since Furyk and Snedeker forced them to grind out a victory in Friday's foursomes, and they couldn't overcome their slow start Saturday.
"We were just parring the place to death, which is not good enough in this format," McDowell said. "We just couldn't get the ball to go in the hole. Rory had a few putts in particular that burned some edges, and we just couldn't get any momentum going."
Take the last three holes. A nice iron by McDowell gave McIlroy an easy birdie putt on 16, and he made it to pare Furyk and Snedeker's lead to 1 up. But McIlroy followed that with a miss on a 15-footer that would have evened the match on 17.
McIlroy's monster drive on 18 put the Europeans in good position to scratch out a halve -- especially after Snedeker went in a bunker off the tee. But McDowell flew the green on the second shot, leaving McIlroy with a long putt from the fringe. He nearly made it, but his line was about a half-inch too far to the right and McIlroy groaned as he watched it roll on by.
When Snedeker got a 25-footer to about a foot, the Europeans conceded.
"We are in a hole," McDowell said. "These guys, there's blood in the water and they're up for it. They've got a head of steam up and we've got to try and stop it."