Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele will lead the United States’ charge in the singles matches at the Ryder Cup on Sunday.
The US take a whopping six-point lead – 11-5 – into the final day as they vie to regain the coveted trophy won by Europe at Le Golf National in France in 2018.
No team has come back from more than a four-point deficit in singles to win the biennial trans-Atlantic match play showdown.
In 1999 at Brookline in Massachusetts the US rallied from a 10-6 deficit to beat Europe and in 2012 Europe roared back from a 10-6 deficit to stun the Americans in the “Miracle at Medinah” in Illinois.
Both US captain Steve Stricker and Europe captain Padraig Harrington had those editions on their minds as they decided the order in which they would send up their singles players at Whistling Straits.
Schauffele will take on four-time major-winner Rory McIlroy in the opener. McIlroy has struggled through a dismal week, losing three matches and sitting out one session over the first two days.
Patrick Cantlay, who locked up US PGA Tour Player of the Year honors in winning the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup playoffs crown, then takes on Irish newcomer Shane Lowry, who is coming off an adrenaline-boosting fourballs win for Europe in which he drained an 11-foot birdie putt at the 18th to secure the victory.
American Scottie Scheffler, the lowest-ranked player on the US side at 21 in the world, then faces a daunting task against world No 1 Jon Rahm, who has teamed spectacularly with Spanish compatriot Sergio Garcia over the first two days.
Then comes big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau against Garcia, Collin Morikawa against Viktor Hovland and in the sixth match world No 2 Dustin Johnson against veteran Paul Casey.
Johnson has keyed the US surge this week, with four victories in four matches so far. A singles victory on Sunday would make him the first American since Larry Nelson in 1979 to go five-from-five.
The United States need 14.5 points – just 3.5 points from 12 singles matches – to win the Cup.
As holders, Europe need 14 points – nine from singles – to retain it.
Despite the lopsided numbers, Johnson, like Stricker, said the Americans’ couldn’t afford to be complacent.
“It’s not over,” said Johnson, the oldest player on the team at 37 who was on the US team victimised at Medinah.
Although Schauffele is a Ryder Cup rookie, he has experience of a similar team event of the Presidents Cup.
“I don’t think any of us are getting too far ahead of ourselves,” Schauffele said. “It’s 12 points for grabs tomorrow, and we are all trying to take care of our own business.”
That’s just what both Stricker and Harrington want their players to do.
“They have to just go out there and win their own individual match,” Harrington said. “They have to focus on that and not look at that bigger picture, focus on their individual self and play their game and win that and then just see how it adds up.”
Stricker said he’d urged his players only to keep their focus and maintain their momentum.
“No one is taking this day tomorrow for granted at all. We are totally focused on what we need to do to get the job done.”
Sunday’s singles matches (SA times):
18:04 – Xander Schauffele (USA) vs Rory McIlroy (EUR)
18:15 – Patrick Cantlay (USA) vs Shane Lowry (EUR)
18:26 – Scottie Scheffler (USA) vs Jon Rahm (EUR)
18:37 – Bryson DeChambeau (USA) vs Sergio Garcia (EUR)
18:48 – Collin Morikawa (USA) vs Viktor Hovland (EUR)
18:59 – Dustin Johnson (USA) vs Paul Casey (EUR)
19:10 – Brooks Koepka (USA) vs Bernd Wiesberger (EUR)
19:21 – Tony Finau (USA) vs Ian Poulter (EUR)
19:32 – Justin Thomas (USA) vs Tyrrell Hatton (EUR)
19:43 – Harris English (USA) vs Lee Westwood (EUR)
19:54 – Jordan Spieth (USA) vs Tommy Fleetwood (EUR)
20:05 – Daniel Berger (USA) vs Matthew Fitzpatrick (EUR)
© Agence France-Presse