Ryder Cup team captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington have confirmed their selections for the Friday four-ball session at Whistling Straits.

The United States took a 3-1 lead after the morning foursomes session in the 43rd edition of the tournament, with the hosts looking to wrestle the trophy back from Europe in Wisconsin.

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia got Europe off to a good start as they saw off Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth 3 and 1, but Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa got the USA back on level pegging, with Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger then edging out Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Ryder Cup debutants Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele did for Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, and Schauffele will be swiftly back out on the course as he pairs with Johnson for match one of the afternoon four-ball session.

The duo take on Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger, with match two seeing Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler face Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.

Match three pairs Tony Finau and Harris English together for the USA, with Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry - who both represented Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics - teaming up.

The final four-ball match of the session will involve Thomas and Cantlay for the USA, with Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland their opponents.

The United States' position as the heavy favourites to win the Ryder Cup was vindicated as they claimed a 3-1 lead after the foursomes.

Though the first point at Whistling Straits went to Europe's Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, the other three matches were dominated by the hosts in Wisconsin.

Victories for the pairs of Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger and Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele left Europe with significant work to do in the fourballs as they bid to retain the cup.

The weight of expectation is firmly on the USA; however, after the Americans rose to the challenge in the opening session, the onus switches to Europe's captain Padraig Harrington, who was eyeing an afternoon improvement to prevent his team slipping to a potentially decisive deficit.

Garcia and Rahm might have feared the worst when the former drove into the bunker off the opening tee.

However, Garcia was superb with the driver thereafter and Rahm excelled with the flat stick as they claimed their match against Justin Spieth and Justin Thomas 3 and 1.

Yet the form that all-Spanish duo produced could not be replicated by their European team-mates.

Morikawa and Johnson soon levelled matters following Garcia and Rahm's triumph, their victory secured when Morikawa converted a short putt from 22 inches on the 16th to defeat Viktor Hovland, who missed a long putt for birdie to keep the match alive, and Paul Casey.

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele were in command throughout against two Ryder Cup mainstays in Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.

The American pair won the first five holes and, despite a brief comeback from McIlroy and Poutler, prevailed 5 and 3.

And, while Rahm thrived on the green, Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick could not buy a putt in their loss to Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka, whose 2 and 1 success put the USA 11.5 points from regaining the cup.

 

Friday's foursomes results

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (EUR) beat Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA) 3 and 1
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) beat Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland (EUR) 3 and 2
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger (USA) beat Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR) 2 and 1
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (USA) beat Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter (EUR) 5 and 3

After three long years, the wait for another Ryder Cup ends this week as the United States and Europe take to the fairways and greens of Whistling Straits. 

Europe are the holders but the USA start as favourites for many observers, with home advantage and a formidable-looking team. 

There will be shocks along the way and there will be some expected stars of the show who end up taking a back seat as unlikely heroes emerge. 

Captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington will have their own ideas of who might be best placed to make a telling impression. 

Here, Stats Perform looks at four players who could make a huge impact across the weekend in Wisconsin. 

UNITED STATES: Super Spieth ready to show his teeth

Jordan Spieth has been a resurgent force this year, finishing second at the Open Championship and in a tie for third at the Masters, while at the other two majors he finished a respectable 19th and 30th. 

The American also ended a four-year wait for a victory on the PGA Tour with a sweet win in his home state at the Texas Open in April and is primed to cap a fine year with a strong Ryder Cup. 

Spieth has mentioned in the build-up that he loves the course set-up at Whistling Straits, which he feels provides scoring opportunities on almost every hole. 

The 28-year-old also referenced his previous Ryder Cup success. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among USA players in the team format. 

UNITED STATES: Nice guy Finau just the man for Stricker's superstars

American teams in the past have been accused of…well…not exactly getting along. Having the ultimate good guy in the team is sure to boost morale and Tony Finau certainly fits that mould. 

But make no mistake, Finau is a guy with real pedigree – even if sometimes he hasn't quite been able to convert that into wins (his triumph at the Northern Trust last month was only his second PGA Tour title and first in five years). 

On his Ryder Cup debut, he was one of few bright notes for Team USA, with Finau winning two of his three matches – including a singles win over the otherwise unflappable Tommy Fleetwood, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the American team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five). 

Moreover, at the 2015 US PGA Championship, Finau finished 10th having shot four sub-par rounds at Whistling Straits. Finau is the sort of character who can really flourish at a Ryder Cup, particularly with home support behind him. 

 

EUROPE: Europe eye trophy Rahm raid

Jon Rahm is the man for the big occasion. He is the only player to have secured a top-10 finish at all four majors this year, while he is also Europe's most recent victor at one of the leading events, having won the U.S. Open. 

The world number one's Ryder Cup debut did not go entirely to plan in 2018, as he won only one of his three matches, but that triumph was in a singles match-up with Tiger Woods – only Tiger's second loss in the format. 

Now established at the forefront of the sport, Rahm will expect to be the man to lead Europe to glory with an improved all-round showing, justifying his status as the bookmakers' favourite to be the leading points scorer at Whistling Straits. 

EUROPE: Viktor sounds like a winner

Belgium's Thomas Pieters was the top points scorer five years ago at Hazeltine, scoring four points but ending on the losing side. With Norway's Viktor Hovland relishing his debut on the team, could there be another surprise leader on the points board? 

Hovland played college golf for Oklahoma State and has been a familiar figure on the PGA Tour, so playing in America is second nature. He was low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open in 2019, won the U.S. Amateur, and has come of age since, jumping to a career-high world ranking of number 10 in August. 

Eight top-10 finishes and just one missed cut since the turn of the year show what he brings, and that level of consistent play is bound to appeal to captain Harrington. 

"I'd like to think I have some fans out there that maybe won't necessarily boo against us," Hovland said this week. "But if they do end up doing that, that's what they're going to do. We're still going to play golf, and if they do end up doing that, that means we're doing something good." 

The 43rd Ryder Cup begins at Whistling Straits on Friday a year later than planned, with Europe seeking to retain the trophy after hammering the United States in Paris three years ago.

Delayed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, golf's most famous team competition makes its long-awaited return after Europe's 17.5 – 10.5 victory at Le Golf National in 2019.

Ahead of the action, Stats Perform explains the format of the contest.

 

HOW THE POINTS ARE SCORED

A total of 28 matchplay contests will be played across three days, with each contest worth one point.

If a match is level after 18 holes, Europe and the United States simply take half a point each.

As holders, Europe need only 14 points to retain the trophy, while their opponents must reach 14.5 to regain the Ryder Cup.

FOURBALLS AND FOURSOMES

The first two days are all about teamwork.

On Friday and Saturday, the morning sessions will involve fourball matches, each team fielding eight players in four pairings.

The fourball format is often known as better-ball as each duo takes their best individual score on each hole. So, for example, if Rory McIlroy makes a three and Jon Rahm a four, it is McIlroy's score that counts.

After the morning fourball sessions, things get interesting in the afternoons as eight more players from each side combine for foursomes action.

In this format, the two men on each team share one ball and take alternate shots, which can lead to some apologetic words between colleagues if a poor shot is played.

SUNDAY SINGLES

A whopping 12 points are up for grabs on the final day of the competition as all 24 competitors go head-to-head in singles matches.

While the captain determines who features on Friday and Saturday, with some players heavily involved and others lightly used or even left out altogether, every single team member is involved on Sunday.

The United States are favourites to make home advantage count and regain the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits this weekend.

An emphatic 17.5-10.5 victory at Le Golf National in September 2018 saw Europe regain the trophy under Thomas Bjorn, as the likes of Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter played starring roles.

Yet while Europe have won six successive home Ryder Cups, their recent record on American soil has been mixed.

We take a look at the last five editions of the event in the USA.

 

2016 - Hazeltine

Result: United States 17 - 11 Europe

Europe had won three Ryder Cups in a row ahead of the 2016 event, but they were in for a shock at Hazeltine.

Darren Clarke's hopes of masterminding victory suffered a hammer blow on the first morning as the United States, captained by Davis Love III, pulled off a clean sweep of the Friday foursomes.

Rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafael Cabrera-Bello impressed as Europe narrowed their deficit, but the USA regained control in the second fourball session and went on to triumph by a six-point margin, the talismanic Patrick Reed defeating Rory McIlroy in a dramatic opening singles match to set the tone for the hosts.

2012 - Medinah

Result: United States 13.5 - 14.5 Europe

Is it really nine years since the 'Miracle of Medinah'?

In the first Ryder Cup since the death of European icon Seve Ballesteros, the Spaniard's close friend Jose Maria Olazabal oversaw the most remarkable of comebacks to ensure Europe retained the trophy they had claimed at Celtic Manor two years earlier.

The USA were 10-4 up on Saturday afternoon, having won five of the day's first six contests.

However, Europe crucially won the last two fourball contests, with Poulter the architect of an astonishing turnaround in the anchor match.

Poulter and his team-mates then overhauled a four-point deficit in the singles, something that had only happened once before in Ryder Cup history, with Martin Kaymer sinking the winning putt to spark emotional scenes of celebration from the visiting team.

2008 - Valhalla

Result: United States 16.5 - 11.5 Europe

No European golfer in the professional era has claimed more major titles than Nick Faldo's six and the Englishman was also the most prolific points scorer in Ryder Cup history before Garcia moved past his tally of 25 at Le Golf National.

However, Faldo was nowhere near as successful in a miserable stint as Europe's captain, which yielded a heavy defeat to Paul Azinger's United States team at Valhalla.

The infamous 'sandwich-gate' incident - in which Faldo was photographed holding an apparent list of pairings only to then claim, somewhat unfeasibly, it was a list of lunch requests - was not the only gaffe made by the former world number one before the event had even begun.

Europe were then handsomely beaten when the action did get under way, trailing throughout on their way to a 16.5-11.5 loss.

Hunter Mahan was the leading points-scorer for the USA, who prevailed in seven of the 12 Sunday singles contests, but the likes of Anthony Kim, Boo Weekley, Justin Leonard and J.B. Holmes were among others to play starring roles.

 

2004 - Oakland Hills

Result: United States 9.5 - 18.5 Europe

In contrast to Faldo, the meticulous Bernhard Langer did not put a foot wrong in 2004 as Europe stormed to victory by a record margin at Oakland Hills.

Every member of Langer's team contributed at least a point, with wildcard selections Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald among those to excel in a stunningly one-sided match.

In contrast, a USA team led by Hal Sutton and featuring three of the world's top 10 failed to deliver, with Chris DiMarco the only player to score more than two points for the hosts.

Montgomerie, in his penultimate Ryder Cup appearance as a player, famously holed the winning putt and went on to say: "That singles win over David Toms, in fact that whole week, rejuvenated me and my career."

 

1999 - Brookline

Result: United States 14.5 - 13.5 Europe

Prior to Europe's fightback at Medinah in 2012, the only previous instance of a team coming from four points behind in the singles came at Brookline, in distinctly fractious circumstances.

Mark James was Europe's skipper for an event sadly overshadowed by boorish abuse of visiting players by a partisan crowd and raucous scenes on the 17th hole on Sunday.

A mammoth putt from Leonard prompted an invasion of the green from the US team, even though Olazabal still had a putt of his own to come.

Ben Crenshaw's USA ultimately triumphed 14.5-13.5, but the 'Battle of Brookline' would be remembered for the wrong reasons.

In a subsequent autobiography, Sam Torrance - a vice-captain for Europe that week - described the final day of the 1999 event as: "the most disgraceful and disgusting day in the history of professional golf."

The 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup is almost upon us. A year later than initially planned, the finest golfers Europe and the United States have to offer will do battle at Whistling Straits.

Padraig Harrington's team will be looking to defend the title Europe clinched in Paris three years ago, while Steve Stricker's men will hope to make home advantage count as the USA look to win the tournament for only the third time since the turn of the century.

Ahead of the action in Wisconsin, Stats Perform looks back at some of the most memorable moments from tournaments gone by.

 

Miracle at Medinah, 2012

Where else to start other than a moment that is widely considered to be one of sport's greatest ever fightbacks. The "Miracle at Medinah" took place in Illinois nine years ago, with the Chicago crowd witnessing a remarkable European recovery, inspired by Ian Poulter – who will be playing again this weekend.

Europe were 4-10 down heading into the final day, with the USA needing just 4.5 points to win. Yet Poulter, who won all of his matches, got the ball rolling for the visiting team, who took 8.5 points from a possible 12 on the Sunday. Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner offered the hosts hope, but Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer won their matches to leave Tiger Woods needing to beat Francesco Molinari to secure a tie. The round was halved, ane Europe triumphed 14.5 to 13.5.

 

Battle of Brookline, 1999

Thirteen years prior to the Miracle at Medinah, the USA forged an incredible comeback of their own at Brookline, Massachusetts. Europe held a 10-6 lead heading into the final round, yet were pegged back as the USA, buoyed on by a vociferous crowd that riled some of the European players, with Colin Montgomerie coming in for particularly strong treatment, won the first six matches of Sunday's play.

Yet the decisive moment came when Jose Maria Olazabal – who would go on to lead Europe to victory at Medinah - lost three successive holes to Justin Leonard when he had been four up with seven to play. The match was tied on the 15th when the American holed a 40-foot putt, and on the 17th, Leonard struck a brilliant birdie, with the US team and fans storming onto the green in celebration as the half-point required to complete the comeback was secured. Olazabal still had a 25-foot putt to make to send the match to the 18th, only for the Spaniard's effort to trickle wide.

Torrance ends US dominance, 1985

The Belfry is entrenched in Ryder Cup history and, in 1985, Europe earned their first win in what was the fourth attempt since the team had spread to include the continent and not just players from Great Britain and Ireland.

Seve Ballesteros was in exceptional form, but it was left to captain Sam Torrance to sink a 22-foot putt, inflicting the United States' first defeat since 1957.

Clarke leads emotional European victory, 2006

Having taken a three-month break from golf following the loss of his wife, Heather, to cancer, Darren Clarke was named as a wildcard pick by Europe captain Ian Woosnam for the 2006 Ryder Cup, hosted in Clarke's native Northern Ireland at the K Club.

Clarke produced a performance for the ages, winning both of his pairs matches and going on to defeat Zach Johnson in his singles game. "I doubt there was a dry eye in the house," said Clarke afterwards, as Europe went on to secure an 18.5-9.5 win.

 

Langer fluffs his lines, 1991

Possibly the tightest Ryder Cup contest in history came at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, with the US taking a slim lead into the final day. However, by the time the final match rolled around, they needed half a point to reclaim the title.

It came down to the final hole, too. Bernard Langer required to hole a six-foot putt to tie his match with Hale Irwin, and Europe would keep their hands on the trophy. Yet he failed to do so, the ball rolling off the lip and away, with the US triumphing for the first time since 1983.

The concession, 1969

The Ryder Cup had been dominated by the United States from the end of World War II, with Great Britain (as the team was then) winning only one, in 1957.

However, the first tie in the Ryder Cup was recorded at Royal Birkdale in 1969, when American great Jack Nicklaus conceded a three-foot putt to Tony Jacklin at the 18th hole – the moment going down as one of the most famous gestures of sportsmanship. 

Kristoffer Broberg won the Dutch Open by three shots to end his long wait for a second title on the European Tour. 

The Swede, who had previously triumphed at the BMW Masters back in November 2015, went round for a level-par 72 at Cromvoirt on Sunday to get over the line. 

Broberg had gone into the fourth round with an eight-shot lead, yet a birdie and a bogey by the time he reached the turn meant Matthias Schmid and Alejandro Canizares gained ground. 

A second birdie extended Broberg's lead to five shots, though wobbles on the 12th and 14th suggested nerves had taken hold. 

However, the 35-year-old regained his composure to save par from a bunker on the 15th and, after heading into the final two holes with a two-stroke lead, he holed a 13-foot birdie putt before rounding off his tournament with a par, leaving him well clear on 23 under. 

"It means a lot. Six years of hell," an extremely emotional Broberg said, cutting his post-round interview short. 

Prior to shedding a few tears, Broberg conceded his performance on the day was not up to standard.

"Happy right now but the game wasn't there today, I was struggling all day, I didn't feel comfortable over the ball," he explained.

"I did a great up-and-down on 15 so I'm happy with that, pulled my tee shot on 17 but made the putt for birdie, so I'm happy with that."

Schmid went round in an impressive 66 to finish second on 20 under par, while Canizares was in third on 18 under, having carded a 68 that included a double-bogey finish at the last.

Paul Azinger says Brooks Koepka should relinquish his place on the United States Ryder Cup team if he does not want to play at Whistling Straits.

Four-time major winner Koepka raised eyebrows when stating in an interview with Golf Digest that he finds the prestigious event "a bit odd" and "hectic".

The former world number one revealed he finds playing in a team event difficult to adapt to, as he is unable to get into a usual routine that he would have during a major tournament.

Azinger, who captained the USA to victory over Europe in 2008, says Koepka ought to give someone else the chance to play in Wisconsin if he is not fully committed.

"I'm not sure he loves the Ryder Cup that much," Azinger said during a conference call for NBC Sports.

"If he doesn't love it, he should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love the Ryder Cup."

Azinger added of Koepka, who has been troubled by a wrist injury: "Not everybody embraces it.

"But if you don't love and you're not sold out, then I think Brooks - especially being hurt - should consider whether or not he really wants to be there."

Azinger continued: "Brooks is one of the most candid, most honest guys there is, and if he's blatantly honest with himself and doesn't want to be there, he should come out and say it."

The United States start their bid to regain the Ryder Cup a week on Friday.

Henrik Stenson has been named as Europe's fifth and final vice-captain for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

Padraig Harrington has turned to the vast experience of Swede Stenson to complete his backroom team for a showdown with the United States that starts in Wisconsin next Friday.

The 2016 Open champion has played in the prestigious biennial competition five times, lifting the famous trophy on three occasions.

Stenson, 45, has won 11 points from 19 Ryder Cup matches and came out on top in all three in the last edition at Le Golf National in 2018.

 

"It's a great honour to get the call and to be involved with Team Europe. I've been part of five Ryder Cup teams in the past and to be given the opportunity as a vice-captain to help Europe's quest to retain the Ryder Cup is exciting," said Stenson.

"Padraig called me on Monday morning and it was not a long conversation. I accepted straight away and I assured him that myself, along with the other vice-captains, are there to help and assist him and the team in any way we can.

"We have a very strong team. It's a mix of huge experience along with three guys who will take on their first Ryder Cup – and that's a great combination. We have strength in depth so I'm looking forward to getting out there and seeing the boys perform.

"It's no secret that winning on away soil is always a little bit harder, but the boys are ready for that challenge. It's all going to come down to how well we play during the week, but I have every faith in our team."

Robert Karlsson, Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell are Harrington's other vice-captains.

Europe captain Padraig Harrington has selected Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry as his wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup, but there is no place for Justin Rose on the 12-player roster.

Rose has competed in five of the last six editions of the biennial tournament, but he was overlooked by Harrington after a poor season on the PGA Tour that saw him fail to make the top 125 on the order of merit list.

Harrington opted for experienced names in Garcia and Poulter, while Lowry was given a reprieve of sorts after being knocked out of the automatic selection places when Bernd Wiesberger finished tied-20th at the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday.

Wiesberger, Poulter, Garcia and Lowry join Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Viktor Hovland, who all qualified through the rankings.

"I am absolutely thrilled with my team, with all of our picks we have the strongest 10, 11 and 12 we've ever had," Harrington said on Sunday.

Asked about the inclusion of Poulter, who is set to compete in his seventh Ryder Cup, Harrington said: "He is undefeated in singles. He lifts himself, he lifts his partners, he lifts the team.

"I'm getting a player who is in probably the best form of his life. He consistently motivates people around him. That's so important to the team. I know I have players who are good enough to deliver and Poulter is at the heart of our team."

Europe are looking to retain the trophy at Whistling Straits later this month following their 17.5-10.5 triumph over the United States in Paris three years ago.

USA finalised their squad on Wednesday, with captain Steve Stricker selecting Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele among his wildcard picks.

Schauffele was one of four rookies chosen by Stricker along with Daniel Berger, Harris English and Scottie Scheffler, with Tony Finau – part of the beaten side in 2018 – completing the captain's picks.

Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay had already locked in spots for the USA.

Bernd Wiesberger and Lee Westwood secured their places in Europe's Ryder Cup team as Billy Horschel prevailed on a dramatic final day of the BMW PGA Championship. 

Four automatic places were there for the taking at Wentworth. Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick were already all but assured of their spots at Whistling Straits, with Wiesberger, Westwood, Shane Lowry and Justin Rose fighting to book their tickets. 

Lowry and Rose entered the final 18 holes with work to do and both ended up falling short. Rose's seven-under 65, which saw him finish three strokes behind Horschel on 16 under, was not enough to get him on either the European or World points lists. 

Irishman Lowry needed to finish in the top eight to qualify but endured a disappointing final day, a one-under 71 seeing him go 12 under for the tournament and leaving the 2019 Open champion down in tied 17th. 

Wiesberger carded a level-par 72 as he closed on 11 under, that score sufficient to dislodge Rory McIlroy from the European points list. 

Meanwhile, Westwood is set to equal Nick Faldo's record for Ryder Cup appearances by playing for Europe for the 11th time. 

Like McIlroy, Westwood qualifies via the World points list despite a five-over 77 that left him down in a four-way tie for 71st. 

At the sharp end of the leaderboard, it was Horschel who emerged from a tightly packed field thanks to his final-round 65. 

He was tied with Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jamie Donaldson and Laurie Carter on 18 under, but a tremendous approach over the water at the last gave Horschel a simple putt for birdie. 

Carter was unable to replicate Horschel's feat, giving the American his second European Tour title of the year and his first triumph in a Rolex Series event. 

Francesco Laporta heads into the final round at the BMW PGA Championship with a one-shot advantage after a solid effort on Saturday.

The Italian may not have carded one of the day's most impressive scores, with three players managing to go round in 66, but his three-under 69 was enough to put him top after starting the day third.

Laporta carded an eagle on the five-par fourth as the world number 264 made the turn in 34, before producing a composed back nine to climb to the summit.

A couple of birdies and seven pars put him a shot ahead of Canter and helped capitalise on the struggles of overnight leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

His scores of 64 and 68 were followed up by an untidy 74 on Saturday, seeing the Thai drop to 10 under for the tournament, four adrift of Laporta.

The leader was understandably delighted with his day's work, though he accepts he may have to be better with the putter if he is to bring the trophy home.

"It was a great day for me, I hit the ball pretty solid. I missed some putts on last four holes, but I'm pretty happy with my game," he said. "The best thing I did today was to focus shot by shot.

"I just have to try do better tomorrow [with the putting]. I was feeling okay, not so under pressure, but tomorrow will be different."

Laurie Canter held a share of the lead with Laporta at the eighth after sinking a brilliant 20-foot putt for a birdie and then drew level again at the 12th, but ultimately ended the day a shot behind in second.

Four players are a further shot back and then another three head into the final day on 11 under for the tournament.

Two of them are Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger – the latter just needs to finish in the top 50 to secure a spot in the Europe's Ryder Cup team, while the former is just behind Lee Westwood for the final automatic berth in Padraig Harrington's team.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat holds a one-shot lead over Laurie Canter after the second round of the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Aphibarnrat shared the overnight lead with Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who went round in level par on Friday, but a four-under 68 moved him into top spot as the Thai sits on 12 under.

Canter, who has only seven European Tour top-10 finishes since 2010, was joint-fourth after Thursday's play but a second-round 66 placed him one stroke shy of Aphibarnrat.

Returning to the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2006, Adam Scott sits in third place after recovering from a double-bogey six on the third to reach 10 under.

Scott's playing partner Justin Rose, who knows victory at Wentworth will guarantee an outright spot in Padraig Harrington's Ryder Cup team, joined Jamie Donaldson and Billy Horschel in a share of fourth after carding 68, which put him on nine under overall.

Ryder Cup hopeful Shane Lowry finds himself embroiled in numerous qualification scenarios with Bernd Wiesberger, who closed on six under, and is now four shots back from the lead after producing a six-under 66.

The Irishman is part of a seven-man group in a tie for seventh and the 2019 Open Champion feels he is thriving under the pressure of securing a spot at Whistling Straits on September 24.

"Coming here with a little bit of pressure on me needing to perform and play well and I've done that the first two days," he said. "I'm pretty happy to be honest.

"Obviously I want to make the [Ryder Cup] team automatically. I think I've played some really good golf over the last few months to put my hat in for a pick on Sunday evening if I do need one.

"I'm here to win the golf tournament."

Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Christiaan Bezuidenhout finished eight-under par to share the first-round lead at the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Aphibarnrat, whose last of four European Tour wins came in 2018, produced a magnificent back-nine run of seven birdies in eight holes to finish with a bogey-free 64.

Late starter Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who won two European Tour events in 2020, reached five-under through the front nine before closing with three consecutive birdies to claim joint-top spot.

Former world number one Adam Scott made his first appearance in the European Tour's flagship event since 2006 and sits one shot back in third, a bogey on the 16th his only blemish in an otherwise impressive seven-under 65.

Amid the backdrop of European Ryder Cup team selection, Justin Rose finished two shots behind playing partner Scott to occupy joint-fourth place, knowing victory at Wentworth will guarantee his place to face the United States on September 24.

But the 2016 Olympic champion, who is tied with Laurie Carter and Masahiro Kawamura, is enjoying the pressure and appreciates his Ryder Cup destiny is in his own hands.

"All eyes are on me now, which is great," Rose told Sky Sports. "That is a good start where I can focus on the positive scenario, which is me winning the tournament to get into the team by right.

"That [winning] is obviously Plan A, then Plan B is all of the other stuff.

"I didn't actually appreciate how many scenarios were still in play this week with so many players, so there's a lot to shake out obviously over the next few days."

European captain Padraig Harrington, who completed a level-par first round, will also make three wildcard picks for Whistling Straits, opening chances for the likes of Rose, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia.

Prior to Thursday, Shane Lowry occupied the ninth and final qualifying position for the European Ryder Cup team but the selections will be finalised after the conclusion at Wentworth.

The 2019 Open champion recorded a two-under 70, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger wrestling back four shots with a birdie-eagle finish for his 71 to maintain pressure for the final qualification spot.

Francesco Molinari is out of contention for the Ryder Cup after a poor run of form but record a three-under 69, while defending champion Tyrell Hatton struggled to two-over on day one.

United States captain Steve Stricker has selected Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele among his wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup, but there is no place for Patrick Reed on the 12-player roster.

Spieth will appear at the biennial competition for a fourth time in a row, while Schauffele is set to make his debut against Europe in next month's tournament at Whistling Straits after recently winning Olympic gold.

Schauffele was one of three rookies chosen by Stricker on Wednesday along with Daniel Berger, Harris English and Scottie Scheffler, with Tony Finau – part of the USA side that lost in Paris three years ago – completing the captain's picks.

Speaking at a news conference to announce his final selection, Stricker said: "All six of these guys have been playing some really good golf for a long period of time. 

"It's more about a body of work. They have all played great throughout this year and very well deserving of these picks."

The top-six qualifiers – Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay – had already locked in spots for the USA, who are seeking to regain the trophy after that 17.5-10.5 loss in 2018.

Reed is the most notable name overlooked by Stricker, the 31-year-old having featured in every American team since 2014. 

He made his return from a month-long absence at last week's Tour Championship after being hospitalised with pneumonia in both lungs.

Asked to explain his decision to overlook Reed, who top-scored for USA in their 2016 victory at Hazeltine, Stricker said: "That was a very, very difficult call. I lost sleep over that one. 

"He's a tremendous competitor, he brings a lot of match play golf and his record at the Ryder Cup is pretty darn good.

"I think it was the uncertainty of his health and the lack of play that led to our decision down the stretch."

Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington will announce his final three picks on Sunday.

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