The U.S. is still up in the Ryder Cup, 10-6, but plenty of drama remains thanks to Ian Poulter. Who were the winners and losers on Saturday and what are the top matchups in the Sunday singles?
Most Valuable Player: Ian Poulter – How do you give the MVP to a player on a team that’s trailing 10-6? Easy when it’s Poulter (3-0), a captain’s choice of Jose Maria Olazabal, who has single-handedly kept Europe alive and somehow swung the momentum. In the morning foursomes, against the U.S. duo of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, Poulter made all six of his putts between 3 and 10 feet, as he and Justin Rose eked out a 1 up victory. In the afternoon four ball, Poulter was incredible, finishing with five straight birdies to rally he and Rory McIlroy past Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner. If his team wins, Poulter should be crowned King of Europe. If Europe rallies and comes up short, captain Jose Maria Olazabal will have some splainin’ to do, why he benched Poulter (now 11-3 in Ryder Cup play) in the Friday four ball.
Least Valuable Player: Nicolas Colsaerts – The Belgian Bomber looked like a rookie, making nothing and going 0-2 in a pair of winnable matches that could have squared the competition overall, a radical departure from his spectacular performance in the Friday four ball (eagle, eight birdies).
Incredible Scene: After Poulter’s amazing work on Saturday, Europe is partying like it’s 1999 – the year the U.S. overcame a 10-6 deficit to win at Brookline. Olazabal did not shake his finger at the press on Saturday night (a la U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw in 1999), but he did chuckle when asked if he had a “special feeling,” the words Crenshaw used 13 years ago.
What happened to Keegan Bradley?: The Ryder Cup rookie with a 3-0 mark has been the U.S. star, but it seems days ago since he last pumped his fist. Such is the manner in which Ian Poulter stole the show in the afternoon four ball on Saturday. Bradley Phil Mickelson were brilliant again on Saturday morning, dominating the European power duo of Luke Donald/Lee Westwood, 7 and 6. It was the fewest holes required for a Ryder Cup partner match since Azinger/O’Meara beat Faldo/Gilford at Kiawah Island in 1991.
Great Sunday Matchup I: Bradley vs. McIlroy – Everyone was clamoring for matchup between McIlroy and Woods before the event began. But this pairing might be better: How will the 26-year-old U.S. rookie fare without Mickelson in his ear? How will McIlroy do when the usually adoring U.S. crowd is rooting against him and after appearing a spectator in the Saturday four ball, playing alongside Poulter?
Great Sunday Matchup II: Simpson vs. Poulter – At this point, any match involving Poulter is the most compelling one. Simpson and Poulter play the second match of the day. There’s little question who is the most talented. But will Simpson play like it on Sunday?
Great Sunday Matchup III: Watson vs. Donald – Are there any two players more dissimilar than the grip-it-and-rip-it Watson and polished, short-game impresario Donald? For the Europeans to win, they need a good start. To that end they send Donald out first. He has some momentum after making six birdies in a Saturday four ball victory with Sergio Garcia over Woods/Stricker.
Great Sunday Matchup IV: D. Johnson vs. Colsaerts – Gotta love two young, tall, broad-shouldered, party-hard, twenty-something bombers going at it in the Sunday singles.
Worst Sunday Matchup: Martin Kaymer vs. Steve Stricker – These two have done next to nothing for their respective teams. Kaymer has fallen off the map since winning the 2010 PGA and his qualification for the team calls into question the European points system. Stricker has brought down his partner, Woods, in three disheartening losses, accounting for half the points the U.S. has surrendered so far.