RYDER CUP

Europe close the gap on US at the Ryder Cup in foursomes

The visitors won two and a half points out of four to reduce their deficit to the hosts to 6 1/2 - 5 1/2 in Saturday mornings session.

Europe close the gap on US at the Ryder Cup in foursomes
JIM WATSON AFP

Birdies galore and thrills aplenty left a raucous Ryder Cup crowd spellbound on Saturday morning as Europe won two and a half points out of four to reduce their deficit to the United States to 6 1/2 - 5 1/2.

The Americans, bidding to avoid a fourth successive defeat in the biennial team event, got off on the wrong foot in the foursomes on a warm, wind-less day at Hazeltine National.

McIlroy and Pieters deliver

In the top match, world number three Rory McIlroy and long-hitting Belgian rookie Thomas Pieters charged into a three-hole lead after five holes against Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.

Pieters and McIlroy, who also won their afternoon fourballs on Friday, vindicated captain Darren Clarke's decision to send them out first by producing six birdies in 16 holes to score a 4 and 2 win.

"To go out first, put a point on the board, that's what we wanted to do," said McIlroy. "We wanted to start the session in the right vein. Thomas and I have similar games and I think that helps in foursomes."

Snedeker and Koepka see off Stenson and Fitzpatrick

The U.S. tandem of Brandt Snedeker and rookie Brooks Koepka won the opening hole with a par four in the second match and were never headed as they eased past Swede Henrik Stenson and debutant Matt Fitzpatrick of England 3 and 2.

The standard was not as high as the top encounter but the Americans found a turbo-charged gear on the back nine, rattling off four birdies in a row from the 13th to seal the European pair's fate.

British Open winner Stenson and Fitzpatrick had wasted a big chance on the 12th when Koepka played a shot more typical of a weekend amateur, shanking his approach to the green into the galleries, but the hole was eventually halved in bogey fives.

"The hardest thing we have to deal with this week is not getting too excited but we did a great job of staying patient," said Snedeker. "It was not pretty by any stretch of the imagination and we found a way to win."

García and Cabrera match US star pair

Olympic champion Justin Rose and fellow Englishman Chris Wood, making his first appearance in the competition, never trailed as they scraped a one-up win in a close-fought tussle with Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson.

The real fireworks came in match four as Sergio García and Rafa Cabrera-Bello came storming back from four down with six to play to finish all square with the American powerhouse pair of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

Spieth and Reed appeared to have things completely under control but the two Spaniards refused to give up and Reed needed to sink a nerve-tingling four-foot par putt at the last to avoid defeat.