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US hikes lead over Europe

CHASKA, United States (AFP) – Moving closer to their first Ryder Cup victory since 2008, the United States captured Saturday’s three final four-ball matches to seize a 9 1/2 – 6 1/2 edge over Europe.

Heckling crowds that Europe star Rory McIlroy says have gone over the top with insults at Hazeltine were delighted as the Americans put themselves in prime position to snap a three-edition losing streak in the biennial team golf showdown.

‘‘We always get criticized – we don’t bond as a team, we don’t have enough passion – and this time we’ve taken it personally,’’ US captain Davis Love said. ‘‘We’re in a good position. I’m very elated.’’

Personally is how McIlroy, who won in four-balls and alternate shot matches Saturday with Belgian partner Thomas Pieters, has taken spectators’ taunts.

‘‘I think there have been some boundaries overstepped out there,’’ McIlroy said. ‘‘I let it get to me a couple times when I shouldn’t have. You’re going to let it get to you when emotions are running this high.’’

Third-ranked McIlroy was screaming and fist pumping all day, spurred on by the crude remarks.

‘‘It fueled me a lot,’’ McIlroy said. ‘‘The more they shouted at us the better we played. I hope they shout at us all day tomorrow.’’

Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson made clutch putts over the final holes to secure two vital US points while 10-time Cup starter Lee Westwood, a captain’s choice, botched a two-foot putt to cost Europe half a point.

As a result, the US team needs only five points from Sunday’s 12 concluding singles matches to reclaim the Cup while Europe must take 7 1/2 points to keep the trophy.

‘‘Disappointed. We had a few chances but the American guys played very good,’’ Europe captain Darren Clarke said.