GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) — Europe set out Sunday to maintain its grip on golf’s greatest team prize, needing just four points from 12 singles matches to retain the Ryder Cup. Europe sent out veteran Graeme McDowell to play 21-year-old U.S. rookie Jordan Spieth in the first match on a cloudy day at Gleneagles.
Amid a raucous soccer-style atmosphere at the first tee, McDowell and Spieth both hit their opening drives down the middle of the fairway. They halved the first hole. Europe, which has won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, needs 14 points to retain the trophy and 14 1/2 to win outright. The U.S. is facing the same 10-6 deficit that the Europeans overcame two years ago with a stunning Sunday rally in the “Miracle of Medinah.” The Americans came back from 10-6 down themselves to win in Brookline in 1999.
“We can’t be complacent,” European captain Paul McGinley said. “You only have to look back two years ago what happened on away soil. We all see how quickly it can turn around.” The U.S. hasn’t won on European soil since 1993 at The Belfry.
“You might think that it’s a given that the Europeans are going to win,” U.S. captain Tom Watson said. “But I sure as hell don’t.”
Hoping to get American red on the scoreboard early, Watson loaded the front order with his best players. The first two are rookies — Spieth and 24-year-old Patrick Reed, the only unbeaten Americans at Gleneagles. Reed faced Henrik Stenson, who is 3-0 and sat out Saturday afternoon with a tender back.
The third match featured a marquee duel between No. 1 Rory McIlroy against 25-year-old Ricky Fowler. The Europeans seized command on Saturday afternoon, winning three of the foursomes matches and halving the fourth. It was the second day in a row Europe grabbed 3 1/2 points from the alternate-shot matches.
The grandstand at the first tee was packed Sunday with flag-waving fans, mostly Europeans, who broke into soccer-style songs and chants. When McDowell and Spieth arrived, they chanted: “You’ve got Big Mac, we’ve got G-Mac.” Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was at the first tee to greet McIlroy, a huge United fan. Ferguson, a Scot who is Britain’s most successful soccer coach, gave the European team a pep talk earlier this week.