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McIlroy leads Europe from the front as Ryder Cup comeback continues

Photo: PA

A fired-up Rory McIlroy led from the front as Europe looked to keep their Ryder Cup comeback on track at Hazeltine.

After winning their fourballs on Friday afternoon, McIlroy and Belgian rookie Thomas Pieters combined superbly again to defeat Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson 4&2 in the first foursomes match on Saturday morning.

The European pair birdied the first two holes and were conceded the fifth after Fowler's wild tee shot forced left-hander Mickelson to attempt a right-handed recovery shot from up against a fence.

Mickelson holed from 50 feet across the eighth green to avoid going four down and when McIlroy missed from three feet for par on the next and hit a wild drive on the 10th, the momentum was threatening to swing back in the favour of the American pair.

Pieters conjured up a superb escape from deep in the trees and McIlroy's long birdie putt finished close enough to be conceded, but Mickelson holed from 15 feet for birdie to get back to just one down.

McIlroy and Pieters needed to regain their composure and did so immediately with a birdie on the 11th, only to make a mess of the 12th and see their lead trimmed once more.

However, Mickelson and Fowler then combined to three-putt the 14th and when Pieters holed for birdie on the 15th to prompt a massive roar of celebration from his partner, the win was effectively sealed.

That made the overall score 5-4 to the United States, with the home side ahead in two of the remaining three matches on the course.

Brooks Koepka and Brandt Snedeker had birdied the 13th, 14th and 15th to move two up on Henrik Stenson and Matt Fitzpatrick, with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed three up after 13 holes on Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello after covering the front in five under par.

Justin Rose and Chris Wood were two up with four holes to play on Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker with four to play.

McIlroy had lost his previous three Ryder Cup matches against Mickelson and admitted: "When I saw the draw last night I was like 'Yes, I get to have a go at him again'.

"My record against him in the Ryder Cup isn't what I would like it to be so personally I maybe wanted it a little bit more for that reason.

"The first point on the board is massive. Darren put a lot of faith in us in foursomes as we'd not really practised together. We flipped for it on the first tee to see who would hit on which hole."

Snedeker and Koepka completed a 3&2 victory over Stenson and Fitzpatrick after the latter's approach to the 16th was pulled into the water, restoring the home side's two-point lead.