Rónán MacNamara in Rome
Europe 10½-5½ USA
On a day full of cap waving, you have to tip yours to Patrick Cantlay.
If Ryder Cup players do get paid in the future, Cantlay certainly put his money where his mouth is with a magnificent back nine performance to give USA a lifeline heading into the Sunday singles.
Cantlay birdied his last three holes as he and Wyndham Clark stole a win from Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick with his winning birdie on 18 the only time the Americans were up in the match.
Cantlay teed off in the afternoon fourballs marred with controversy after reports circulated that he had driven a wedge into the US team room by demanding players be paid to play in the Ryder Cup, refusing to wear a team cap in the process and being made sit in a separate area of the changing room.
Jeered and mocked by European fans all afternoon who waved their caps in his direction, it was the American who had the last laugh, rolling in a 20-foot putt on 18 and in fairness, you have to tip your cap to him.
“Hopefully have a ray of light and we can build on this session and try and pull off a big victory tomorrow,” said Cantlay who was quick to deny the reports he had refused to wear a cap.
“It just doesn’t fit. It’s as simple as that. I didn’t wear it at Whistling Straits because the hat just doesn’t fit, so that’s really all it is.”
Things turned sour on 18 as the US players and caddies sarcastically waved their caps towards McIlroy and Fitzpatrick (before they had putted) with the former involved in a heated exchange with Cantlay’s caddie, Joe LaCava causing Shane Lowry to burst out in anger, having to be restrained by his teammates.
The carnage continued into the car park with McIlroy squaring up to Bones Mackay who had apparently stood in his line and Lowry ironically playing peacemaker.
In the end, Rory and Fitzy came up shy and the winning point went to the away side who for the first time this weekend, have momentum after winning their first session of the contest 3-1.
Europe still remain in a commanding position and Luke Donald’s charges need just four points to win the cup as they sleep on a comfortable five point cushion, but Cantlay’s late, late show had shades of Ian Poulter in Medinah eleven years ago.
First blood in the afternoon went to the Americans as Sam Burns and Collin Morikawa accounted for star duo Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Äberg 4&3.
Leading 6UP with as many holes to play, they held off a brief rally from the Scandinavian pair who eventually ran out of holes on 15.
Tommy Fleetwood and Nicolai Hojgaard only won two holes in their match as they went down to the superb Max Homa and Brian Harman who made it two wins from two on Saturday.
From early on in the session the type of Sunday that was going to be in store would be decided in the final two matches.
A ding dong battle between Justin Rose and Robert MacIntyre and Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth saw the Americans up and level before the Europeans pinched a couple of holes around the turn to move 1UP after ten.
A MacIntyre birdie on 13 saw the pair take control of proceedings and it was Rose who closed out the match with a birdie on 16.
“It’s been brilliant. Today is everything I’ve dreamed of. I worked hard for it. Yesterday felt like I let Justin down a little bit but he stood up to the challenge and today he was brilliant again and thankfully I helped him out,” said the Scotsman.
Meanwhile in the bottom match Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick were 1UP from the fourth to the eleventh before a hatless Cantlay levelled affairs alongside Clark.
Fitzpatrick wasn’t at the races for much of the afternoon and what looked like being one of the great days of McIlroy’s Ryder Cup career if not overall turned sour and ended up being one of Cantlay’s.
Despite a terrific birdie on 14 from ten feet to move 1UP and driving the 16th green before a sizzling chip on 17 for a par, his day was spoiled by Cantlay’s epic response.
“Matt and I played well. Obviously they had a great finish and you know, Patrick made three great putts at the end to seal the deal, so hats off to them. They played a great match, and yeah, I mean, a few scenes there on 18 and just fuel for the fire tomorrow,” McIlroy said post round.