CHASKA, Minn.—The U.S. Ryder Cup team is just where it wants to be, in front with only the singles competition remaining on Sunday.
But considering history it may be where the European team also wants the U.S. to be.
The Americans had a great afternoon after a mediocre morning, and led by Patrick Reed, jumped to a 9 1⁄2 -6 1⁄2 lead on a beautiful fall Saturday at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
There are 12 singles to be played Sunday. In the last Ryder Cup held in the United States, at Medinah Country Club in 2012, the Americans held an even greater margin, 10-6, then collapsed and lost.
Sounding very much like a football coach, Davis Love III, team captain of this year’s U.S. team who was also captain in 2012, dismissed any linkage and suggestions of failure.
“This team’s never played together before,” Love said. “This is a new 12. We’re not looking at past records.”
There’s one notable carry-over, Phil Mickelson, who on his 11th straight U.S. Ryder team has been influential in how pairings were arranged, which so far make him look brilliant.
Although he and Rickie Fowler were beaten, 4 and 2 in the morning foursomes, the alternate shot format, Mickelson joined another veteran, Matt Kuchar for a 2 and 1 victory over two solid Euros, Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia in the afteroon four-balls.
“Matt was cracking jokes all around,” said Mickelson. “It was a treat.”
Kuchar said playing with the 46-year-old Mickelson was like playing with his big brother. “I’ve seen him do it before,” said Kuchar. “But from the other side.” He meant in individual tournaments.
Reed, 26, is a tenacious competitor who was unbeaten in four matches in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and with Jordan Spieth is 2-1-1 this time.
Reed holed a wedge for an eagle three on the par-five sixth, a jolt that pushed the American duo into the lead of the 2 and 1 four-ball win over the Rio Olympic medalists Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
When his shot spun back into the cup, he pumped his arms and let out a series of howls, and the partisan crowd sent a roar across the Minnesota prairie.
J.B. Holmes also had spectacular afternoon session. Teamed with Ryan Moore, Holmes made seven birdies in a narrow 1-up win over Danny Willett and longtime Ryder Cupper Lee Westwood, who missed short putt on the 18th for a half.
Rory McIlroy was a winner in both his matches. He and Thomas Pieters defeated Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, 4 and 2 in foursomes, and they came back to whip Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, 3 and 1 in four-ball.
“I finally got Phil,” said McIlroy, who was 0-3 in matches against Mickelson. “It’s huge. We got the first point of the day.”
They need at least 7 1⁄2 points in the Sunday singles to retain the Ryder Cup.
UNITED STATES 9 1/2, EUROPE 6 1/2
Europe 2 1/2, United States 1 1/2
Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters, Europe, def. Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson, United States, 4 and 2.
Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, United States, def. Henrik Stenson and Matt Fitzpatrick, Europe, 3 and 2.
Justin Rose and Chris Wood, Europe, def. Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson, United States, 1 up.
Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello, Europe, halved with Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, United States.
United States 3, Europe 1
Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters, Europe, def. Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, United States, 3 and 1.
J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore, United States, def. Danny Willett and Lee Westwood, Europe, 1 up.
Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar, United States, def. Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia, Europe, 2 and 1.
Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, United States, def. Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, Europe, 2 and 1.