There are still twenty points to be earned over the weekend and Davis Love III and Darren Clarke have to find the right combination of pairings on this all important Saturday.
Love is dealing from a position of strength with a two point lead and looks to be putting out what he thinks are his hot hands and stud pairings.
He has decided to continue to play the wild hitting Phil Mickelson with his Friday morning partner, Rickie Fowler. These two saw places on Hazeltine that the greenskeeper didn’t even know existed but a timely chip in from Fowler and a stiffed iron shot by Mickelson as the Euro’s faded gave them their unlikely 1 up win over Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan. Love may be pushing it with Mickelson as he admittedly struggled off the tee and was saved by Fowler all day long. Or some might say, like me, Love has no choice and Phil is calling his own shots.
If any team earned a spot in the Saturday Foursomes it is Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka. They were the only American Team to win in the afternoon and simply man-handled Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett 5 & 4. Koepka didn’t play like a rookie as he drove it so very long and straight. Snedeker putted like we have seen him so many times before and if these two can get in sync in the alternate shot they could be deadly.
Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson was a bit of a surprise pairing but as soon as they warmed up they went on an amazing roll winning five straight holes in their morning win. A performance like that earns you another shot at the foursomes.
Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth looks to be a pairing that can carry the American Ryder Cup Team for the next decade. Could they be the USA’s version of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal? Well, maybe in a few more matches. They won in the morning but suffered a bad loss in the afternoon. But this much is obvious: these two are joined at the hip and should play in every team match.
Captain Clarke has a more difficult challenge, yes he’s two points down and he has six rookies on his team and hesitates to put two rookies out alone. This means pairing them with a seasoned veteran so that has limited what he can do with his lineups.
But with his Saturday pairings he has all of his rookies in play and will be hoping that some new, young blood can take a piece out of the Americans.
Rory McIlroy is again paired with Thomas Pieters who actually won four holes to McIlroy’s three in their afternoon match. Pieters struggled in his morning match but did warm to the pressure as the match went on but he got zero help from Lee Westwood who is noticeably absent from Saturday’s lineup. Rory went 1-1 on Friday but his impressive closing eagle may have given the Euro’s the needed momentum.
Clarke broke up his super team of Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose to have them pair with rookies in the hopes that the battle tested old pros can guide them through the Ryder Cup pressure. Young Matthew Fitzpatrick will get his chance to show his mettle and with a ball striking machine like Stenson he has a good chance of scoring some points.
Clarke has kept the latest version of the Spanish Armada together as Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello will hope to continue their winning ways. These two looked very comfortable with one another in Fourballs and Clarke is hoping that they will do the same in Foursomes.
Every match is important but it looks like there may be two feature matches in this session. The first match out, Mickelson/Fowler vs McIlroy/Pieters will be interesting to see if Mickelson can carry his own weight and we’ll see if McIlroy can keep that momentum going for the Euros.
The final match on Saturday is one of the most critical of the entire Ryder Cup. It can set the tone for the pressure filled Sunday. With Spieth and Reed Love has put his studs out there and will ride them to they drop and Clarke has countered with a newly discovered exciting pairing in Garcia and Cabrera Bello.
The Ryder Cup… there is nothing like it.