GLENEAGLES (AFP) – Europe’s finest golfers stand poised to retain the Ryder Cup on Sunday at Gleneagles, with their American counterparts needing to match the greatest comeback in Cup history to swipe the trophy.
The Europeans carried a 10-6 lead into the final 12 singles matches, built largely on a 7-1 edge in foursomes results over the past two days, matching the 1975 US squad for the most lopsided domination in the format.
Holders Europe need 14 points to keep the Cup and appeared set for their sixth victory in the past seven tries and eighth in the past 10 events.
The Americans, who lead the overall rivalry 25-12 with two halved, need 14 1/2 points to reclaim the trophy, meaning eight victories alone would still not be enough.
Europe was also within reach of its largest Ryder Cup victory margin, wins of 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 at Oakland Hills in 2004 and Ireland’s K Club in 2006.
But both sides were mindful that 10-6 deficits have twice been overcome to win the Cup, the Europeans doing so in 2012 with the Miracle at Medinah after the US team acheieved the feat in 1999 at Brookline.
For Tom Watson’s American squad to pull off a Stunner in Scotland, it will need the greatest rally ever on European soil, their prior best a two-point reversal to win in England in 1949.
No US side has won in Europe since Watson guided the 1993 squad to victory at The Belfry when Jordan Spieth, the rookie hero for the Americans this time with 2 1/2 points, was only 60 days old.
The feature singles showdown is the third matchup between Northern Ireland’s world number one Rory McIlroy, coming off major wins at the British Open and PGA Championship, and Rickie Fowler, who this year became only the third player to finish in the top five in every major, joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods even though he failed to win one.
US newcomers Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, whose 2 1/2 points together is the best rookie pairing in Cup history, were selected by Watson for the key starting spots to try and build momentum for an American fightback, with Masters runner-up Spieth facing Graeme McDowell in the opener and Reed following against Swede Henrik Stenson.
England’s Justin Rose is off fourth against Hunter Mahan while five-time major winner Phil Mickelson follows against host-nation hero Stephen Gallacher and reigning US Open champion Martin Kaymer of Germany meets reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson in match six.
If the US team can deny Europe an early run, it will still face a formidable fight on the back side of the matchups.
Dane Thomas Bjorn will meet Matt Kuchar in match seven followed by third-ranked Sergio Garcia taking on Jim Furyk, whose 19th career loss Saturday set a Cup record.
England’s Ian Poulter, the hero of Europe’s comeback triumph two years ago, will face 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson while 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley is paired against Welsh rookie Jamie Donaldson.
England’s Lee Westwood meets US rookie Jimmy Walker in the penultimate match while French rookie Victor Dubuisson and 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson will leave it for last.