Ryder Cup | Saturday morning | Justin Thomas on 2

Justin Thomas reacts on No. 2 during Ryder Cup foursomes Saturday morning at Whistling Straits.

HAVEN — It was a defining three-hour window in the middle of a gorgeous fall morning that, for Team USA, might have lost its significance amid a marathon Saturday in which it inched closer and closer to winning the 43rd Ryder Cup.

Make no mistake, though. If the Americans are lucky enough to hoist golf's most precious — and, for nearly two decades, most elusive — trophy Sunday at Whistling Straits, they will owe a debt of thanks to the eight men on Pete Dye's lakeside creation during the Saturday morning foursomes session.

That's when the complexion of these matches turned one way and then another as Team USA essentially traded a signature victory in the opening match against Europe's undisputed heavyweight partnership for two wins at the back end of the session that counted just as much. When the alternate-shot format was tucked away for the balance of these matches, Team USA found itself celebrating its third consecutive three-point session — and the sweeping of foursomes competition for the first time since 1975 — and quietly doing the math to figure out how much work was left to get to 14½ points.

In a state preoccupied at the very moment by magic numbers, the flipping of the script in that key stretch of the morning session reduced the Americans' magic number to 5½ points to regain the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2016 at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn. That number would be reduced to 3½ after a split in the afternoon matches put the U.S. lead at 11-5 heading into Sunday.

Had U.S. Ryder Cup rookies Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay not erased a 1-down deficit in the morning and pulled away for a 2 and 1 victory before Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas won four of the last five holes in their match to complete their comeback from 3-down, Team USA would've been lucky to be halfway to the 17-inch tall prize going into the afternoon.

"I haven't really paid attention to the score," Thomas said during intermission after making a 6-foot par putt on the 18th hole to close out a 2-up win over Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger. "I just know that we have been trying to go out and win points, and I think that's everyone's job on our team, at least how they look at it. When they step up on that first tee, they are playing to go get a point. And I think everybody has that mentality, and we have been fortunate to do that each session."

This session was decidedly different than the two on Friday that staked the Americans to a 6-2 lead.

Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger led off the morning session for Team USA and provided the early wake-up call for Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, winning the first three holes and five of the first six to take a 3-up lead. At 8:42 a.m., however, Berger missed a 7-foot par putt on the par-3 seventh hole that would have restored their 3-up lead against the world's No. 1-ranked player (Rahm) and the Ryder Cup's career leader in scoring and matches won (Garcia).

That's when everything started to see-saw for Team USA.

At 8:46 a.m., Spieth tied the fifth hole with a bogey after finding the water off the tee to stay 2-down. Hovland returned his team's lead to 3-up by making a 5-foot birdie putt at No. 6 before Spieth and Jordan started chiseling away at that cushion and twice tied the match, first at 9:52 a.m. when Spieth rolled in a 27-foot putt for birdie at No. 7 and then at 10:48 a.m. when Hovland and Wiesberger made bogey at No. 14, before Spieth and Thomas won Nos. 15, 16 and 18 to close out the match.

"Getting to 3-down is tough; (being) 2-down you feel like you can go on a quick run and get things back to even, but 3-down, I think the percentages go way down," Spieth said. "Luckily, it was only through six holes, and I knew if we played the last 12-under par that we'd have a chance in this wind. I think we did that just barely."

In the middle of the Spieth/Thomas comeback, Schauffele and Cantlay took control of their match with Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick while Koepka and Berger lost control of theirs.

As he has done so many times in his 10 Ryder Cup appearances, Garcia struck the key shot on the par-5 16th hole, while he and Rahm clung to a 1-up lead, hitting the team's second shot from 244 yards to within five feet, holding his pose after he struck the shot at 10:50 a.m. Rahm rolled in the eagle putt and they closed out the match with a par on the ensuing hole.

"It was a good shot and at the right moment, too," Garcia said. "Someone in the crowd shouted, 'Come on, you're going to choke.' And it was nice to prove him wrong I guess."

As for Schauffele and Cantlay, they drew their first roar about 9:30 a.m. when Schauffele buried a 31-foot birdie putt at No. 7 to tie it up. Cantlay kept it tied when he saved par with an 8-foot putt at No. 8 after the two had considerable trouble on their way to the green. Then Cantlay unleashed some rare emotion when he jarred a 23-foot birdie putt on No. 9, giving the Americans a 1-up lead that they would nurse to a 2 and 1 victory in the morning's final match that finished just shy of noon.

"We were talking about Justin and Jordan, they were sitting down early, and we were looking at the board, and as soon as we saw red, I got fired up, and Pat did as well," Schauffele said. "I just think competition is key. All of us are so competitive, and we look up at that board, and if we see blue, we want to see red, and I think that I can speak for my whole team, and we fire each other up.

"Week-in, week-out, we are trying to beat each other's heads in, and all of a sudden we are on the same team and we are equally as competitive. One thing we all have in common is we all hate losing. So there's that."

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