Patrick Reed claimed a potentially crucial singles victory over Rory McIlroy at Hazeltine, handing the United States a major boost in their bid to regain the Ryder Cup.
The USA led 9.5 – 6.5 overnight and therefore needed just five points to win the biennial event for the first time since 2008.
Reed put the first of those on the board, completing a 1up victory on the 18th to the delight of a partisan crowd in Minnesota, and the hosts were on course to reach their target despite respective defeats for Jordan Spieth and JB Holmes at the hands of Henrik Stenson and Thomas Pieters.
Stenson recorded a 3 and 2 win over Spieth, who is still to win a singles match in either the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, while Pieters rounded off an outstanding debut by claiming his fourth point – the Belgian beating Holmes by the same margin.
However, with the US holding leads in many of the remaining matches, including the final five, Europe were facing an uphill battle as they aimed to pull off a comeback similar to the one they managed from 10-6 down at Medinah four years ago.
— Ryder Cup Team EUR (@RyderCupEurope) October 2, 2016
The clash between Reed and McIlroy had been pinpointed as Sunday’s main attraction and certainly lived up to its billing initially.
After Reed had eagled the driveable par-four fifth to wipe out an early deficit, both he and McIlroy birdied the next three holes and exchanged increasingly animated celebrations amid a frenzied atmosphere.
However, the quality of the match dipped on the back nine and a par was enough for Reed to forge ahead for the first time at the 12th as McIlroy’s putter went cold.
The Northern Irishman missed a presentable chance to hit back on 13 and fell two down with two to play when he could only par the 16th, having been forced to back off his third shot due to an off-putting howl from the gallery.
A bogey from Reed at 17 saw the contest go the distance, but the American showed tremendous character to birdie the last when McIlroy was closer in two and in positon to capitalise on any wobble.
Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia were producing some of the best golf on the final day, the former six under through 14 holes when he birdied the 14th to move one up.