K.J. Choi, who lost in a playoff just last week at the Sanford International (eventually won by Darren Clarke), leads after round two of the Pure Insurance Championship. The 2011 Players champion fired a 4-under 68 at Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula, California.
Choi has made just one bogey through his first 36 holes, and will enter Sunday’s final round with a narrow edge.
But the biggest story on Saturday was Bernhard Langer, at age 64, finishing with a 66 on the day.
Langer got hot after the turn, posting birdies on four of his last eight holes while playing Pebble Beach, and the 41-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions said it’s the best round he’s had on the iconic course in decades. Langer and Alex Cejka, who shot a 71 on Saturday, both trail Choi by two strokes.
“I played really good today, really one of my best rounds on this golf course in 40 years or something, 30 years, I don’t know. Hit some great tee shots and some solid irons, and made the odd putt. So, very happy,” Langer said, “It got pretty cold the last hour or so. And, yeah, excited about tomorrow.”
K.J. Choi of the Republic of Korea hits his tee shot on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links during Round Two of the PURE Insurance Championship on September 25, 2021 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Langer, who last won at the 2020 Cologuard Classic, was asked what he likes about Pebble Beach.
“Just about everything. It’s right there in front of you. You got to play smart, and certain holes you got to be aggressive, keep the ball under the hole, and take your chances when you can,” he said. “But the scenery is better than anywhere else, really.”
Star-studded matchups will decided winner of the Ryder Cup.
European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington and his 12-man European team are still holding out hope that they can pull off the biggest comeback in Ryder Cup history on Sunday.
All 12 Americans have won a match at the 43rd Ryder Cup as Team USA built an 11-5 lead over Europe at Whistling Straits.
“Six points is a tough one to make up tomorrow,” said Harrington, who was on the losing end of USA’s rally from a 10-6 deficit in 1999 and on the winning side in 2012 when Europe rallied from the same deficit, “ but I think we were a half-point short of that in the Miracle at Medinah on Sunday, so we’re just going to have to push for that tomorrow.”
It’s the largest lead Team USA has held over Europe in the modern era (since 1979) – largest since 1975 – and matched the 2004 European squad that thrashed the Americans. The Americans need to win 3 ½ points out of 12 on Sunday to win the Cup for the first time since 2016.
Team Europe had its first non-losing session on Saturday afternoon, splitting four Four-Ball matches, but for much of the day it looked as if Europe would have won three of the four matches before the U.S. flipped a match late in the day. How big a difference will that make in the outcome?
“Very big. 11-5 versus 10-6, that’s a big difference in my book,” U.S. captain Steve Stricker said.
But the Europeans refuse to relinquish the golden trophy it claimed in Paris in 2018 without a fight.
“We’re still not out of it,” said Shane Lowry, who holed a clutch 10-foot par putt on 18 to secure a full point in the afternoon. “It’s a long day tomorrow, 12 matches. If any 12 of us were going out against any of them in the match play, we would fancy our chances. We just have to believe. It’s all about believing.”
“If that doesn’t go in, Europe’s got no shot tomorrow,”
The 34-year-old Irishman, who sat out Saturday morning’s foursomes session, was looking on his phone Friday night when an inspirational quote popped on the screen and stuck in his mind.
“It was like if you’ve got a 1 percent chance, you have to have 100 percent faith. And I just think that we really need to live by that tonight and tomorrow and go out and give it our best,” Lowry said. “If we can win three or four of the games early on, you just never know. Golf is a funny game. If you’ve got a chance, you just never know.”
Dustin Johnson leads the Americans with a 4-0 record this week and has the perspective of being on the 2012 U.S. side that blew a 10-6 lead in the Miracle at Medinah. “You know, it’s not over,” said Johnson. “We’ve still got to go out, and everybody needs to play well. We’ve still got to get, what, four points, or 3 1/2. You know, it’s not over.”
But England’s Ian Poulter didn’t mince words. “We’re not in a good position and it’s going to take a beyond monumental effort,” he said. “So we need a couple of miracles.”
“Hopefully we can rally and at last give them something to maybe sweat about tomorrow in the middle of the afternoon,” said Rory McIlroy, who is winless this week.
“We have a big task tomorrow, and hopefully let’s see if we can make history,” said Sergio Garcia, who teamed with World No. 1 Jon Rahm to win three points and represents one of Europe’s few bright spots.
Sunday singles matchups and predictions
Schauffele vs. McIlroy
Schupak: Schauffele is undefeated this week; McIlroy is winless and has looked lost. This one goes to Team USA.
DiMeglio: I didn’t see McIlroy going 0-2 on the first day and then dropping to 0-3 on the second day. I can’t see him ending the Ryder Cup 0-4. Somehow, he’ll find his form for the victory. Even against the gold medalist.
Cantlay vs. Lowry
Schupak: This is an intriguing matchup. Love the fight Lowry showed but Cantlay, the FedEx Cup champion, is a silent assassin and lives for these moments too. Point for USA.
DiMeglio: The USA fans are going to start sweating as Lowry takes down Cantlay. The par putt he made to give Europe a win in Saturday Four-Ball was a gift to his mother, who was celebrating her birthday. The good vibes continue.
Scheffler vs. Rahm
Schupak: Scheffler beat Rahm in the WGC Matchplay and has played well with DeChambeau as a Ryder Cup rookie, but Rahm has been the MVP of the Ryder Cup, albeit on a losing side. He’s been a stud and is going to earn a fifth point for his team.
DiMeglio: Poor Scheffler. Rahm has been the best player this week and will end the week 4-0-1 with his second singles victory in the Ryder Cup; he beat Tiger Woods in Paris in 2018. He’s the No. 1 player in the world and playing like it. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I have Europe winning the first three matches.
DeChambeau vs. Garcia
Schupak: This is one of the best matchups. Garcia is having another great week and while DeChambeau has been enjoying the fan support, I think Garcia will ball strike him to death. Point for Europe.
DiMeglio: Make that Europe winning the first four matches. Garcia came into the week as the all-time points leader in Ryder Cup history and he will add three points to the total – taking him to 28.5 – with his win in singles. He just finds a way to win in the Ryder Cup.
Morikawa vs. Hovland
Schupak: Oh, boy. I may have to walk with this group because this matchup is a thing of beauty. I can’t pick between these two. I’m calling this one a tie, but it won’t be a pillow fight.
DiMeglio: Two young studs go at it but Morikawa has the slight edge because he hasn’t played four matches like Hovland has. USA puts red on the board.
Johnson vs. Casey
Schupak: Johnson can do no wrong this week. When he’s in full flight, he’s almost invincible and will be too much for Casey.
DiMeglio: DJ is back on form, the form that won him a Masters and a FedEx Cup in 2020. Too much firepower for Casey to handle.
Koepka vs. Wiesberger
Schupak: Let’s hope Koepka doesn’t need another ruling. Either way, he’s going to be too much for Bernd. I really liked the way Koepka played on Saturday afternoon. He’ll get a full point for Team USA and could be the clincher, if someone else doesn’t beat him to it.
DiMeglio: Koepka is just the better player. Wiesberger has played well in his Ryder Cup debut, but Koepka is Koepka and he’s healthy enough to finish off his Ryder Cup week with a win.
Finau vs. Poulter
Schupak: Poulter has been hugely disappointing. Finau has been a solid contributor and he’s got another point in him for Team USA if he keeps putting like he did on Friday. Down goes Poulter’s undefeated record in singles. Point for USA.
DiMeglio: This will be interesting. Finau’s power and passion against Poulter’s precision and passion. I’ll go with the guy who is on form – Finau, who won the first FedEx Cup Playoffs event.
Thomas vs. Hatton
Schupak: Hatton acknowledged he was struggling on Saturday. Thomas is one of Team USA’s fiery leaders. He’s going to get a full point for his team.
DiMeglio: Thomas will shotgun some more beers after he wins his second singles match in the Ryder Cup in as many tries. Just the better player.
English vs. Westwood
Schupak: It’s Lee Westwood’s last stand and I don’t think he’s going to go out with a bang. Very cool to have his son on the bag, but English has the more complete game at this point in their careers. Point for USA.
DiMeglio: English is on form; Westwood is not. USA point.
Spieth vs Fleetwood
Schupak: Jordan Spieth has never won a singles match in international competition since turning pro. That streak ends on Sunday. He gets another point for Team USA.
DiMeglio: I think Fleetwood should have played at least one more match. He pulls out the win.
Berger vs Fitzpatrick
Schupak: The anchor match will be anti-climatic, but Berger won’t let up just because Team USA has already won the Cup. Berger’s going to battle to the end and get a W for Team USA.
DiMeglio: Berger is on form, Fitz is not. Yes, I wrote that for the English-Westwood match, but it characterizes the entire 43rd Ryder Cup. The USA was in form, Europe was not. The end result? USA wins 18-10.
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