CHASKA, Minn. — There’s something about Rafa Cabrera Bello that reminds Sergio Garcia of himself in the Ryder Cup.
On Saturday that was a good thing for the European team.
Teamed for the second time, the Spaniards fought their way back from a 4-down deficit to earn a tie and a half-point for Europe in a match that could loom big by the time the Cup is decided.
“All credit to my partner,” Garcia said. “First Ryder Cup and he reminds me of a little Spanish guy a few years ago. I’m so happy for him.”
Garcia wasn’t the only European to be happy. After losing all four opening matches Friday, the team stormed back within a point of the Americans going into the final four pairings Saturday afternoon.
They did it against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who made six birdies in the first 12 holes in the alternate shot format and appeared headed for a runaway win.
Instead, they had to split the point with the veteran Ryder Cup player Garcia and his admittedly nervous rookie teammate.
“Normally I get chicken-skin on the last few holes if I’m in contention,” Cabrera Bello said. “Here I get it pretty much on every walk from green to the tee on every hole, on every putt. And it’s extremely exciting.”
The two Spaniards teamed Friday to deliver a point for their team in the better-ball format, making seven birdies to beat J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore 3-and-2. But they faced perhaps the best American duo in Reed and Spieth, and needed clutch play down the back 9 to rally for the tie.
After Cabrera Bello made a long putt on the 12th hole to keep the U.S. team 4-down, Garcia and Cabrera Bello rallied to tie with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17. Both teams parred the final hole, with Reed making a 5-footer and Garcia tapping in a 2-footer.
They were helped in their comeback by a poor decision by Spieth, who tried to skip a ball across the water on the 15th hole. The shot fell short and led to a costly bogey.
“We just hit a few sloppy shots,” Spieth said. “I made a bad decision there on 15 trying to hit the hero shot instead of laying back and very well could have made par and won the match.”
Garcia knows something about rookies making their mark in the Ryder Cup. He won his first three matches and tied the fourth in 1999 before losing on the final day when the U.S. stormed back to victory.
Cabrera Bello hasn’t won a tournament in four years, but he has played steady all year. His only missed cut in 21 events worldwide was at The Players Championship, and he tied for fifth in successive weeks at the Olympics and the Wyndham Championship.
Garcia said the key to the comeback was staying patient and waiting for the opportunity.
“It’s the Ryder Cup, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “It was tough out there. I mean, they played so good, so well. We just kept telling each other: Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it, keep putting pressure and hopefully at some point they will slow down a little bit and we managed to do that, so very happy.”