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QUICK TAKE: European Dominance Makes U.S. Comeback More Difficult

Golf - 2018 Ryder Cup at Tommy Fleetwood (left) and Francesco Molinari (Photo credit: Carl Recine, Reuters)

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, FRANCE | Now what?

Play the video of Ben Crenshaw waving his finger saying he has a funny feeling about things?


Putt better – fast?

Feed Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari some bad fish?

It’s possible to start the Ryder Cup Sunday singles in a 10-6 hole and win – the Americans did it in 1999 at the Country Club (when Gentle Ben was prescient) and the Europeans did at Medinah six years ago when the spirit of Seve carried them.

Both of those Ryder Cups arrived Saturday evening with the sense that Sunday was a formality.

There’s some of that blowing in the chilly Parisian air at Le Golf National, too.

European captain Thomas Bjørn isn’t going there.

His message to his team: “Just keep going. Keep going hard, keep going with what we’ve got. … I’ve seen too many times what the singles does.”

Speaking of Ben Crenshaw, U.S. captain Jim Furyk invited him to stop by the team room Saturday night and say a few words if he feels like it. The same invitation was offered to other former Ryder Cup captains.

Furyk was part of the legendary comeback win in 1999 and he played a critical role in the U.S. loss at Medinah in 2012. Both have stayed with him.

“I remember every damn word of it,” Furyk said of Crenshaw’s Saturday night message.

As for losing a four-point lead on Sunday at Medinah, Furyk said, “It sure sucked being on the other side, I will say that. That was one of the worst days of my career.”

At this point, it starts as a math equation.

The U.S. must win at least 8 points from the 12 singles matches (they keep the Cup with 14 points while Europe must win 14½). They’ve done it four times since 1979 but it’s like walking to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It can be done but there’s nothing easy about it.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing for the Americans is that Fleetwood and Molinari can’t play together any more.

They went 4-0 Friday and Saturday, the first time a European duo has done that under this format, and they haven’t played the 18th hole yet. They would be favored against Batman and Robin the way they’re going.

“We’re getting closer, but those 4½ points we’re going to need tomorrow, we’re going to have to fight hard for them,” Molinari said.

Another thing working against the Americans: The fairways aren’t going to suddenly get wider and there were no plans to mow the rough overnight.

The Americans have stacked their singles lineup, front-loading it in hopes of generating early momentum and thereby sending a shiver through the European team. It’s standard operating procedure for a team facing a deep deficit.

If it’s to work, not only do Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth need to continue providing the heartbeat, someone needs to zap some juice into Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau. None of them has won even half a point so far.

Neither has Tiger Woods, who is 0-3 but he should be carrying a “Help Wanted” sign around given the contributions Reed and DeChambeau have given him. He’s also drawn Fleetwood and Molinari in every match.

“The three matches we played, they never missed a putt inside 10, 12 feet. That’s hard to do,” Woods said.

That’s also how Ryder Cups are usually won – by the team that putts the best. That’s not even close at this point.

Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks have a combined 1-8 record to this point, which leads to the inevitable second-guessing about whether straight hitters like Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner might have been a better fit at Le Golf National.

All of that discussion would evaporate in the event of an American comeback, as unlikely as that seems.

How did the U.S. team get here?

What started Friday afternoon with the 4-0 European sweep in foursomes continued Saturday morning when Europe went 3-1 in four-ball matches. Overall, Europe won eight consecutive matches, almost unfathomable.

The closest the Americans got to having some momentum was scraping out a 2-2 session in the afternoon foursomes. That didn’t get the Yanks any closer to the lead but it did get them closer to handing the Cup back to the Europeans.

They should be used to that by now.

That 25-year losing streak on European soil?

Many expected it to end this year. One more day to make it happen.

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