Rory McIlroy finally got his Ryder Cup revenge against Phil Mickelson as Europe halved the USA’s overnight lead heading into last night’s fourballs at Hazeltine.
Twenty-four hours after losing the opening foursomes session 4-0, Darren Clarke’s charges took the second 2.5 to 1.5 to cut the USA’s lead in half from 5-3 to just 6.5-5.5.
McIlroy led from the front, defeating Phil Mickelson for the first time in the Ryder Cup after three previous defeats.
“When I saw the draw last night, I was like, ‘Yes, I get to have a go at him again,’ ” McIlroy said after partnering Belgian Thomas Pieters to a 4 and 2 win over the left-hander and Rickie Fowler.
“My record against him in the Ryder Cup isn’t what I would like it to be. So personally I may be wanted it a little bit more for that reason.
“But just to go out first, put a point on the board for Team Europe, that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to start the session off in the right vein.”
Henrik Stenson and rookie Matthew Fitzpatrick lost 3 and 2 to Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka.
But while Chris Wood and Justin Rose were impressive as they beat Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker 1 up, Europe snatched the session when Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello came back four down with six to play to halve with star American pairing Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
“It's the Ryder Cup, it's as simple as that,” Garcia said after watching Reed hole a five footer on the 18th to stop the Europeans turning what looked like certain defeat into a win.
“I felt like we played really, really good foursomes. We were very consistent, giving ourselves chances, making birdies, but they had an amazing start.
“We just kept telling each other: Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it, keep putting pressure and hopefully at some point they will slow down a little bit and we managed to do that, so very happy. Great partner.”
McIlroy and Pieters built in the momentum of their fourball win over Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar on Friday evening in what was an electric foursomes with Mickelson and Fowler.
“You want to set the tone for rest of the team and when they saw us up early, that's exactly what we were trying to do, get up early on them, put blue on the board and luckily Darren had a lot of faith in us to send us out first,” McIlroy said.
The Europeans matched Fowler’s 40 foot curling birdie putt at the first with Pieters (and then McIlroy) draining his 35 footer, the raising his finger to his lips to shush the US fans
The won the second, fourth and fifth to go three up, then halved the seventh in par despite Pieters tee shot into the hazard.
When when they lost the ninth and 10th as McIlroy missed a short putt and then hooked into trouble to be taken back to just one up, they eventually pulled away with a par-birdie-birdie run from the 14th sealing the win.
“We hit good shots together,” Pieters said. “If I hit a bad one, he comes back and has a brilliant one after that. It’s been like that for the last two days and it’s working nicely.”