You don't get to be the World No. 1 without behing able to handle a little pressure. For Rory McIlroy, who's won four majors at the age of 25, being on the verge of losing a point on Friday of the Ryder Cup doesn't even pose as much pressure as a gentle massage.
McIlroy's long birdie putt on the 17th hole of his afternoon match against Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker derailed what had appeared to be a relatively easy cruise to a point for the Americans. After being down two with two holes to play, McIlroy and Sergio Garcia birdied the final two holes to split the hole and break the hearts — and, for the moment, the spirits — of the American team.
This was one of the tournament's finest matches, with neither side able to claim more than a one-hole lead until the 12th. On the 16th, Walker couldn't hole a match-winning eagle putt after Fowler's astonishing approach, and Team Europe wriggled free of what would be several apparent checkmate situations. The halve allowed McIlroy and Garcia to salvage at least something from the day after the morning's loss.
You don't get many chances to take out Rory McIlroy, so when they come along, you need to take advantage. Fowler and Walker couldn't, and they saw a critical half-point slip away. Had they managed to win, the USA would be only a point behind Europe heading into Saturday. But the margin is now two, leaving the Europeans room to breathe, and the Americans to wonder what-if.