Europe thumps Americans again and closes in on Ryder Cup

GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg put Europe in the record book with the shortest match in Ryder Cup history, a symbol of its utter dominance over the Americans at Marco Simone.

The Scandinavia super duo — Hovland of Norway, the FedEx Cup champion, and Aberg of Sweden, only four months removed from college — beat Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka so badly in foursomes Saturday morning that it was over in 2 hours, 20 minutes.

The 9-and-7 victory was the biggest margin for any match over 18 holes in Ryder Cup history, a beating so bad that Scheffler, the world’s No. 1 player, was wiping away tears.

Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood outlasted Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in 17 holes, and Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton delivered the clutch shots on their last two holes to beat Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.

That stretched the lead to 9 1/2 to 2 1/2, the largest lead by any team after three sessions in the current format.

U.S. captain Zach Johnson had said that “our time is coming.” Perhaps that reference was to the Americans finally winning a match. British Open champion Brian Harman and Max Homa delivered the rare win in a 4-and-2 victory over Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka.

This was payback in a big way from two years ago at Whistling Straits, where the Americans were in full stride on their way to a 19-9 victory, Europe’s worst loss. Team Europe is now ahead of pace of that rout.

The only hope for the battered U.S. team was to try to keep it close after Saturday afternoon fourballs. No team has ever rallied from more than four points going to Sunday.

The idea for the Americans was to get off to a hot start. Instead, the scoreboard was filled with blue for the lead matches in the morning, none more shocking than Hovland and Aberg.

Scheffler is No. 1 in the world. Koepka is the PGA champion, his fifth career major. They never had a chance, making two double bogeys after only three holes and one birdie for the match.

“We’re meeting two strong guys, No. 1 in the world and five-time major champ, so we tried to not give them anything,” Hovland said. “And we played really, really solid. Obviously, we didn’t meet a sharp Scottie and Brooks, but we played some really nice golf today.”

Scheffler was seen wiping tears as he sat with his wife and watched other matches.

McIlroy went to 3-0 for the week as he and Fleetwood were 3 up through three holes against Thomas and Spieth, who couldn’t find the fairway, the green or make key putts. Spieth arrived late and made it close, but McIlroy put an end to that. He buried a 20-foot birdie putt on the 15th to restore a 2-up lead, and the Americans made a mess of the par-3 17th in losing the match.

Cantlay and Schauffele rallied from 3 down on the back nine to tie Rahm and Hatton with three holes to play. And then it was a matter of putting. Hatton made his 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th and Schauffele missed from 8 feet for Europe to regain the lead,

On the par-3 17th, Rahm came within inches of a hole-in-one. Cantlay hit his tee shot to about 6 feet. Schauffele missed, giving Europe another point.

The only bright spot for the Americans were Homa and Harman, who never trailed — that was also a first for the Americans this week.

“We needed something to go our way,” Homa said. “I felt like we were ready this morning. We were ready to come out and play some great golf, which we did. Somebody had to start a spark, so I’m just glad it was us.”

Turns out that’s all it was — a spark. Europe was blazing its way around Marco Simone, where the frenzied crowd kept getting louder. When the morning session ended, Europe needed only five points from the remaining 16 matches to extend its home winning streak that dates to 1993.