SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Even with their best start in 46 years, the Americans wanted to wipe the slate clean and play Saturday as if the Ryder Cup was just starting.
When they finished another dominant session of foursomes, it started to feel as if this Ryder Cup against Europe was close to over.
The Americans won their third straight session by with another 3-1 margin, pushing the lead to 9-3 going into Saturday afternoon’s final session before the 12 singles matches.
“It’s never in the bag,” U.S. captain Steve Stricker. “That’s the thing as athletes you always have in the back of your minds.”
Even so, it was more of the same.
Europe has only won two of the 12 matches so far, both by Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, who rallied from a 3-down deficit to beat Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger in a foursomes match that had a few tense moments and Koepka’s terse exchange with a rules official.
The rest of morning belonged to the Americans, just like the opening day.
Dustin Johnson won his third straight match as he and Collin Morikawa built a big lead early and never trailed in a 2-and-1 win over Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton.
Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay had a six-hole stretch in the middle of the round that flipped their match as they remained undefeated in foursomes with a 2-and-1 win over Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrck.
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas rallied from 3 down to win their first match together. Thomas again delivered a big blow on the par-5 16th — a 3-wood for eagle in fourballs Friday afternoon, a 4-iron to 8 feet in foursomes, with Spieth holing a clutch putt for eagle to seize control.
They won the match on the 18th hole when Bernd Wiesberger’s shot from the right rough found the water short of the green, and Viktor Hovland’s pitch from 50 yards for par was only close when it needed to go in.
Koepka and Berger were 3 up through five holes, but Rahm and Garcia had squared the match at the turn and then began to pull away, with Garcia making an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th and the Americans taking bogey from 108 yards away in the fairway.
Still, it was spirited. Europe was 1 up and the Americans were in trouble when Berger sent his tee shot well to the right in mangled grass near a drainage pipe. Koepka asked for relief, believing the drain was in the path of his intended swing. One official denied him. So did another brought in for a second opinion.
Three weeks ago, Koepka injured his left wrist when he hit a root he couldn’t see in the rough at the Tour Championship.
“If I break my wrist, it’s on (expletive) both of you,” Koepka said after the ruling was made. Instead, he gouged it out from 190 yards to the front of the green, and they halved the hole.
Garcia’s second win this week gave him 24, setting the Ryder Cup record. Playing his 10th Ryder Cup, he had said that going 5-0 without Europe winning the gold trophy would amount to a bad week, and those feelings might be put to the test.
“It was important, but we need more,” Garcia said. “What we did is not enough, not (with) the situation we are in.”
They didn’t get the help behind them — not with Hovland and Wiesberger losing a 3-up lead, and Schauffele and Cantlay doing their thing in a foursomes match. They were 2-0 this week, 2-0 in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne when they first hooked up.
Westwood and Fitzpatrick were 1 up and had a 12-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole, with the Americans missing the green long.
Schauffele chipped close for par and Fitzpatrick missed the birdie putt. Schauffele holed a 30-foot birdie putt to win the seventh; Cantlay holed an 8-foot par putt to halve the eighth after they were in trouble along the dunes; and Cantlay holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the ninth.
European captain Padraig Harrington send out his Spanish Armada for the first time in fourballs in the afternoon. Rory McIlroy sat out for the first time in a Ryder Cup in the morning and returned for fourballs alongside Ian Poulter.
Stricker, meanwhile, rested some of his biggest stars — Cantlay and Schauffele, along with Thomas. That means Johnson will be the only American to play all five matches this week. Rahm and Hovland are the only players who didn’t sit for Europe.