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Americans in Driver's Seat


Despite the best efforts of Nicolas Colsaerts on Friday and Ian Poulter Saturday, the Europeans face a 10-6 deficit to Team USA entering Sunday's singles matches in the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.

After Colsaerts carded eight birdies and an eagle to carry partner Lee Westwood and defeat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker Friday, Poulter fired five straight birdies to take he and partner Rory McIlroy past Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson in Saturday's final match.

But that was about it for the Europeans as their opponents, traditionally weak in the first two days of partners competitions - foursomes and four-ball - are in prime position to win the Cup for the first time since 2008 and just the fourth time in the past 14 matches.

The late-afternoon wins by Poulter-McIlroy and Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker helped get the Europeans to within eyeshot of the Americans. But the Yanks are usually strongest in singles and the Euros need to win eight of the 12 matches to reach 14 points and retain the Cup they won in 2010 in Wales.

"It was an incredible finish to what was looking like a very mundane day. I kept saying to Rory, he kept saying to me, we just need something. We just need something. We've got a chance and that's all we can do," Poulter said. "It was crucial to get at least two points out of this session for the guys to go out tomorrow."

Count American captain Davis Love III as among those cautiously optimistic heading into the 12 singles matches. "I think everybody played very, very well," Love told reporters Saturday evening. "Our team, they stuck together, they stuck with their game plan, and they had a lot of fun out there this afternoon watching each other play. I'm very, very proud of the way they played, the way they hung in there."

Love was referring to the important 1-up win by Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar over Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie, when Johnson sank a slick downhill putt on the par-3 17th hole and then the two held on at No. 18 to earn the American's 10th point.

"It was great," Johnson said. "My man, my partner here, Matt, he kept us in it all day. I pitched in a few holes here or there, but not too much. I was definitely riding on his back for most of the day. And then really I hit some good shots on the back nine, and then obviously that putt on 17 was probably one of the biggest putts I've ever made."

"I had some guys that were 2-, 3-, 4-down keep playing hard, hang in there," concurred Love. "Obviously Dustin was disappointed coming off of 16 and then played 17 and 18 beautifully. That was a big point for us to keep the momentum going. It's hard to - easy to say, but every match is important. But that was a big match because you knew the guys coming in, those guys behind Dustin's match were playing very, very well and looked like they could win those two points."

Olazabal is hoping the magic of Seve Ballesteros - the late, great fellow Spaniard who spearheaded many an emotional European victory that helped make the Ryder Cup the widely-watched international event it is today - to carry his team to a comeback win. "I believe, yeah, that it's not over," Olazabal noted.

"That's what I learned from Seve, and that's what I'm going to try to pass to the players. It's not over until it's over. There are 12 matches to be played (Sunday). Of course we have a tough task ahead, but it's not over, as simple as that."

Both captains have front-loaded their top players in the singles, with Donald going against Bubba Watson in the first match and Poulter versus an equally hot Webb Simpson in the second. McIlroy and Bradley - the past two PGA champions - will be another heavyweight contest in the third match, with Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson in No. 4. Just in case the Americans stumble on Sunday, Love put Tiger Woods in the anchor position against Italy's Francesco Molinari. (For all the pairings, visit http://www.rydercup.com/europe/scoring?autorefresh=1.)

Regardless of the pairings, if the first two days of this well-played Ryder Cup follow form the USA contingent is in the driver's seat and is primed to bring the Cup back to America.