Having been told by Litton that Price’s ruling would stand, Koepka, pointing in their direction, proclaimed “it’s on f—— both of you” if he was left injured after the shot, although the officials were proven right as he avoided the channel and put his ball to within 20 feet of the hole. Defeat soon followed, though, on the subsequent 16th where Rahm and Garcia clinched a deserved 3 & 1 victory to put the only slab of blue on the foursomes leaderboard.
It proved the only success in another dismal morning for the defending champions, where a third consecutive 3-1 defeat took the American team to within 4½ points of overall victory ahead of the afternoon fourballs.
It was not the only flashpoint of the day. The introduction of a sportsmanship award at this year’s Ryder Cup has failed to prevent outbreaks of ill-feeling over “gimme” putts that were not conceded.
Home favourite Justin Thomas made an “inside the leather” gesture yesterday after he was asked to complete a 2ft 10in putt on the eighth, and Lee Westwood looked decidedly unimpressed when he had to sink one of a similar length two holes earlier.
The “inside the leather” convention refers to the length of the putter’s shaft. Originally, this meant that putts shorter than the leather grip (or about a foot) should be conceded, although the practice now refers to almost the full length of the putter (more like two foot).
After holing his mini-putt on the eighth, Thomas held out his putter horizontally to demonstrate to opponents Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger that they should have conceded it.
On the sixth, meanwhile, the pairing of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay perked up the crowd dramatically with their request that Westwood hole out. The resulting buzz was so loud and intrusive that the American golfers had to hold out their hands and ask for quiet while Westwood made his tap-in.
There appeared to be words exchanged after that one, as there had been on the same hole on Friday morning. In that instance, ironically enough, it had been Thomas and his partner Jordan Spieth who asked Garcia to hole a tiddler.
“It’s all part of the Ryder Cup, right?” said Garcia’s partner, Rahm, on Friday, in reference to Garcia’s tap-in. “People are going to try to play mind games.”
But the timing of these disputes will not sit well with the institution of the Nicklaus-Jacklin Award, which is to be presented to one member of each team at the conclusion of the event.
The very name of the award is a reference to the most famous conceded putt of all: the three-footer that Jack Nicklaus gave to Tony Jacklin on the last hole of the 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale. “I don’t believe you would have missed that, but I’d never give you the opportunity in these circumstances,” said Nicklaus at the time. The two were so close that they later collaborated on a golf course in Florida which they named “The Concession”.
Garcia was also involved in a flashpoint with a fan shortly before chipping in on the par-five 16th. “It was a good shot and at the right moment, too. Obviously someone in the crowd shouted, ‘Come on, you’re going to choke’, and it was nice to prove him wrong I guess.”
At that stage, with Paul Casey also chipping in earlier in the round, Europe looked to be on the road to a much-needed fightback, but those contests still in the balance all went the way of Steve Stricker’s side.
“It was going well, even when we were down in the top match and we won it,” said Padraig Harrington, the Europe captain. “At that stage I was thinking we could turn the top match around, we were up in the other matches and a half, so we were trying to get something out of it. [The] US again played very well, they did the right things at the right time.”
The Sunday Telegraph