Steve Palmer’s Ryder Cup blog: day three tips
Europe have drifted back to 6-1 with Coral for the Ryder Cup, after a disastrous day-two fourballs session swung the contest heavily in favour of the United States at Hazeltine National, Minnesota.
With just the 12 Sunday singles to go, the USA are 9.5-6.5 ahead and 1-5 with Coral for victory.
Europe captain Darren Clarke caused a surprise by recalling out-of-form wildcards Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood for the final fourballs.
Kaymer offered precious little in a 2&1 defeat alongside Sergio Garcia against Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar, while Westwood missed a tiddler on the final green which meant he and Danny Willett lost to JB Holmes and Ryan Moore one down.
Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth defeated Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson 2&1 in the bottom match. The only positive for Europe was Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters beating Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.
Ryer Cup day three tips
So who does Racing Post golf expert Steve Palmer fancy for the 12 singles matches? Here, he gives his Ryder Cup day three tips to punters…
Patrick Reed v Rory McIlroy
Clarke and American skipper Davis Love have put their star men out first in the most important match of the day.
This is a clash of the titans between two massively in-form players who have been celebrating victories in ultra-aggressive fashion. Both have teed up in four matches over the first two days, McIlroy winning three points and Reed claiming 2.5.
An inspired Reed carried Jordan Spieth in the Saturday fourballs. The long-game class of McIlroy can intimidate his opponent and Europe can edge the opening joust.
Jordan Spieth v Henrik Stenson
Spieth performed well early in the competition, putting superbly and doing enough from tee to green to be effective, but the former world number one lost his swing on the back-nine of the day-two foursomes and was poor in the final fourballs.
The transition from the completion of the back-swing to the shot was too slow. He has lost all three of his singles matches representing USA in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup.
Open champion Henrik Stenson, steady if unspectacular at Hazeltine thus far, may bring Europe back to within a point by defeating Spieth.
JB Holmes v Thomas Pieters
The Ryder Cup debut of Pieters has been sensational and the Belgian bomber looks set for a glorious career. The fearless nature of his performance, winning three points alongside McIlroy in a hostile environment, has him quickly marked down as future Major champion.
Pieters has natural power and is putting with confidence, so expect the Europe comeback to gather pace with the cocksure young gun seeing off JB Holmes.
Rickie Fowler v Justin Rose
Rose can make it 4-0 to Europe in the singles and put the away side ahead for the first time this week. The Olympic champion carries more self-belief than Fowler at the moment.
Rose won gold in Rio, has got himself fully-fit again after back problems and is a Major champion who has never been beaten in Ryder Cup singles. Fowler has been in poor form for months and failed to win either of his previous two Ryder Cup singles matches.
Jimmy Walker v Rafa Cabrera-Bello
The American rot may stop with Walker scraping a half against Cabrera-Bello. Walker won the USPGA Championship at the end of July and is representing his country for a third time in top-flight competition.
Cabrera-Bello has been fantastic alongside Garcia, winning 1.5 points from two matches and producing a stirring foursomes comeback against Reed and Spieth, but singles combat may expose the Spaniard’s old frailties. A halved match can keep Europe ahead.
Phil Mickelson v Sergio Garcia
Mickelson has played in three matches over the first two days, while Garcia has had four. The American is a decade older, though, so probably does not have much of an edge in terms of energy levels. Mickelson’s putting on Saturday was superb and the showman has been dazzling the home galleries with bursts of brilliant golf this week.
The more reliable long-game of Garcia can prove decisive in this duel, though, with the Spaniard taken to edge a tight match and put Europe 12-10 up. Memories of Medinah 2012 would be flooding back in this scenario, with the Sky Sports golf team going bananas.
Ryan Moore v Lee Westwood
The European fun could come to a crashing halt at this stage, with Moore likely to put the States back on track. Moore pushed McIlroy all the way in the Tour Championship last Sunday and is a solid all-rounder with more self-belief than ever.
Winning a first Ryder Cup point in the day-two fourballs bolstered Moore’s swagger further. That point came after Westwood missed a tiddler on the final green and a chronic lack of putting confidence makes the Englishman an extremely vulnerable singles opponent.
Brandt Snedeker v Andy Sullivan
Snedeker is a putting wizard who has holed from all parts of Hazeltine this week, winning both his matches. He was the stronger partner in his alliance with Brooks Koepka.
Sullivan has not played since losing in the opening foursomes, alongside McIlroy, and the Ryder Cup debutant appears a lamb to the slaughter against a former FedEx Cup champion. In a flash, the Cup could be tied 12-12 with the Minnesota masses increasing the volume.
Dustin Johnson v Chris Wood
What a baptism of fire for poor Wood in Ryder Cup singles. Johnson, the US Open champion and player of the year, seems likely to show no mercy to the nervous rookie.
Wood deserves credit for the way he performed alongside Rose in his only outing this week – they won their foursomes against Walker and Zach Johnson – but the lanky Bristol boy has been handed a monumental Sunday challenge.
Surely Johnson, who has contended for a succession of prestigious trophies this summer and won three of them, will be the much calmer of the two.
Brooks Koepka versus Danny Willett
A difficult match to call and perhaps a crucial one. The States could be 13-12 up at this stage and the tension immense.
In that scenario, the superior putting touch and nerve of Masters champion Willett may prove decisive. But will the Hazeltine galleries allow fair-play?
Willett has been a marked man this week after his brother’s controversial pre-tournament comments and the furore could reach fever-pitch today. Take the gutsy Willett to ride the storm and level the match at 13-13.
Matt Kuchar versus Martin Kaymer
There are two possible reasons for Kaymer performing so badly over the first two days. The German may be paying the price for his scheduling – he played in both the Italian Open and European Open prior to this week and may be running on empty – or it may just be a case of his European Tour results being overrated.
Does churning out decent results on the weaker tour count for much? He has posted only one Stateside top-ten finish since August, 2014. Whatever the facts, Kaymer has been abysmal at Hazeltine and a confident Kuchar can be expected to claim this point.
Zach Johnson versus Matt Fitzpatrick
A 15-13 triumph for the States can be confirmed by Johnson defeating Fitzpatrick. Johnson is a vastly experienced dual Major champion who should relish his anchor-leg role.
Fitzpatrick settled well on his Ryder Cup debut alongside Stenson in the Saturday foursomes, but lost his way coming home and found water with his approach to the 16th hole.
There is no reason to believe the youngster would hold himself together down the stretch with the Cup on the line. It is asking too much. Johnson can start the USA party after a bold European fightback falters at the death.
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