There is no bigger minefield in sports than the final day of the Ryder Cup. Where the first two days had four matches on the course at once, today there are 12 single matches all at the same time.
What makes it exciting is how the momentum can carry even though these are all separate matches. If the homeside starts putting up their own flag repeatedly on the scoreboard by grabbing the lead in a majority of matches, it just seems to roll a wave. The players pick up on it. Similarly, if the away team is making a push, you can feel the uneasiness in the crowd and that translates too.
It's the latter scenario that Davis Love III and the Americans will try to avoid. They have a comfortable enough lead where they shouldn't even have to warm up the closer. But if things get uneasy in the early part of the afternoon, it could snowball.
That would work for European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, who has front-loaded his singles lineup. Luke Donald played wonderfully yesterday afternoon, so he's leading it off against Bubba Watson. Ian Poulter has been the best Euro overall and is simply a zen master in Ryder Cup, so he goes second against Webb Simpson. Rory McIlroy is the number 1 player in the world, and he's going third against the US's biggest gun this weekend so far, Keegan Bradley. Justin Rose has played solidly for the most part and he's fourth against a reborn Phil Mickelson.
The plan clearly from the Euro side is to get some blue flags on the board early, hoping to send a ray of hope to the rest of the cavalry and send some shivers down the remaining US players. Love probably knew this was coming and had his two hottest players in Mickelson and Bradley in the mix, along with the one most comfortable in this cauldron in Watson.
If things do get tight, Love is going to have to count on his only pointless players in the anchor legs in Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods. Either Love wants them in case the pressure is at its highest or he wants them out of the line of fire and things settled when they hit the holes that will raise the pulse. If it's the latter, Love could be very, very sorry if he needs them. But then again, no one is comfortable betting against Tiger Woods, are they?
However, after the opening salvo, the Europeans have a bunch of players who have struggled for either part or all of this competition. Paul Lawrie hasn't been out much and been bad when he has. Brandt Snedeker has been up and down, but won't be fearful. Nicolas Colsaerts was wonderful Friday but unlucky Saturday, but he will see an equally shaky Dustin Johnson -- though Johnson closed out his match Saturday with birdies on 17 and 18.
Graeme McDowell has struggled since Friday morning, and he's going to have a tough time with the steady game of Zach Johnson. Sergio Garcia has been passing, Jim Furyk hasn't. The rest - Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Francesco Molinari, and Peter Hanson should be cannon fodder for their US counterparts.
But it never works out how it should on Sunday at the Ryder Cup.