SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - In a perfect world, the Europeans would've come out on Saturday morning, tussled with the Americans and made a dent in the USA's 6-2 first-day lead.
In the real world, the European’s did tussle with the Americans, but the younger and more talented U.S. team took Europe’s best punches and fought back to take a commanding 11-5 lead, which matched Europe's lead in 2004 at Oakland Hills and stands as the largest two-day lead since the Ryder Cup was expanded to include continental Europe in 1979.
It was impressive, mainly because the U.S. has shown a propensity to falter late in matchers, but on Saturday afternoon they fought hard down the stretch and even grabbed one from the jaws of defeat when Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler won 3 and 1 over Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland by winning the last four holes.
It seemed that after Europe’s Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia took the first match over boyhood friends Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in Friday morning foursomes that the U.S. team, captained by Steve Stricker, was always in control. They won three of the four sessions and tied the Saturday afternoon four-ball.
The only other time the U.S. won three of four sessions and tied a fourth came in 2012 at Medinah Country Club, where a four-point lead was not enough, and the USA lost 14 ½ to 13 ½ when the Europeans took 8 ½ of 12 points in Sunday singles.
Even a Medinah-level comeback would not be enough for the Euros to retain the cup, with the U.S. needing only 3 ½ points to win.
Sunday needs to be historic since only twice -- the U.S. in 1999 at the Country Club and that event at Medinah in '12 -- has a team rallied from a four-point deficit. But no team has come back from being down more than four points.
“We talked about it a lot,” Stricker said of the 2012 loss. “I think we learned a lot of lessons from 2012. Probably the thing I can say is that we didn't do a good job putting our lineup out on Sunday. Not that we took it for granted by any stretch of the imagination, but we just could have done better with it.”
Davis Love III, the 2012 U.S. captain, didn’t frontload his Sunday singles pairings. That's what Stricker was talking about.
Padraig Harrington on the other hand has Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia at the top of his pairings, and while McIlroy has not won a point for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, he is still a force.
The other three players are responsible for the majority of the five points Europe has won this week.
Harrington will wait and see if his big guns perform. If they do, then it'll be up to the rest of his squad, which has produced very little over the first two days, to do something historic.
It’s not very likely, but each European player said they still have hope.
“At the end of the day, as I said at Medinah, it's only half a point more than we won in the singles at Medinah, and just individually -- it's not really that important in the sense of the team,” Harrington said. “They have to just go out there and win their own individual match. There's nothing more they can do than that. They have to focus on that and not look at that bigger picture and focus on their individual self and play their game and win that and then just see how it adds up.”