Golf US lead cut again following Spieth, Reed collapse

The United States appeared sure to remain two points ahead at Hazeltine, only for Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed to falter badly.

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A sensational fightback from Rafael Cabrera Bello and Sergio Garcia saw Europe reduce their deficit to a solitary point after the third session of five at the Ryder Cup.

Europe had suffered a 4-0 thrashing in the alternate-ball format on Friday, but revived their hopes of winning a fourth successive Ryder Cup by winning three of the four subsequent fourball contests.

The USA looked set to retain their two-point lead with a brace of foursomes victories on Saturday morning, only for Garcia and Cabrera Bello to steal an unlikely half against Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, the Spaniards having been four down with six holes to play.

Reed and Spieth birdied five of the first seven holes, but wobbled badly down the stretch and were all-square with their opponents when a birdie putt from Spieth somehow stayed up at 17 and Cabrera Bello holed out from just off the green.

In the end, the USA were grateful to Reed for holing a four-foot par putt on the last, which at least ensured the hosts led 6.5 - 5.5 ahead of the afternoon fourballs.

For the second session in a row, rookie Thomas Pieters excelled alongside Rory McIlroy, the duo overcoming Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler 4 and 2 in a spicy encounter.

McIlroy appeared particularly fired up, during a contest that saw Europe forge ahead early and overcome a mid-round wobble, the Northern Irishman regularly responding to taunts from American fans as he helped put another point on the board.

Europe's second triumph saw Chris Wood earn a point on his debut appearance, he and Justin Rose recording a 1up win over Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson despite faltering late on.

The sole American success saw Brandt Snedeker and rookie Brooks Koepka run out 3 and 2 winners against Henrik Stenson and Matt Fitzpatrick, who struggled over the closing holes after initially battling back from two down to be level with seven to play.


THEY SAID WHAT?

"We had to tell ourselves they would slow down. We saw a window of opportunity, played good and managed to snatch a tie," Cabrera Bello reflects on a morale-boosting half for Europe, in an interview with Sky Sports.

"It's a great atmosphere and it seems like we're playing it in the right spirit. It's competitive but still respectful," McIlroy tells BBC Radio 5 live he is enjoying himself at Hazeltine.


MUST-SEE MOMENTS

- The atmosphere at Hazeltine reached fever pitch as Spieth's birdie attempt somehow stayed up on the 17th. The two-time major champion sank to his knees and Cabrera Bello duly holed out to drag Europe level with a fourth win in five holes.

- Fowler drained a lengthy putt for birdie on the first at the start of match one. Yet Pieters responded in style, sinking a 20-footer of his own before raising a finger to his lips in a 'shushing' gesture. It was not long before Europe were three up through five, Mickelson having been forced into playing a right-handed shot for the second day running.

- There was a bizarre birdie for Garcia and Cabrera Bello at the fifth, the former's wayward tee ball ending up in the pocket of a marshall. Cabrera Bello took a free drop and found the green, before his partner redeemed himself with a fine putt for a three.

 

WHAT WE LEARNED

- Rory McIlroy loves having a crowd against him. Europe's highest-ranked player took great pleasure in bowing to the American fans surrounding the 16th green on Friday and the 'Roary McIlroy' moniker seemed appropriate once more as he frequently let his emotions show on Saturday morning.

- A Ryder Cup match is NEVER over. Spieth and Reed looked home and hosed with six holes to play, only to fall apart down the stretch.

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