Europe recovered in glorious fashion from trailing the USA 2½-1½ in the opening morning fourballs to construct a 5-3 overnight lead at Gleneagles courtesy of a swashbuckling performance in the foursomes.
European captain Paul McGinley was left drooling after an indifferent performance on the opening morning in Scotland was eclipsed by watching his eight men going unbeaten in the afternoon.
Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood completed a two up win over Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson enjoyed their second win of the day with a 2 and 1 success against Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson.
A birdie-birdie finish enabled Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia to somehow escape from their match against Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler with a half before Graeme McDowell sunk a longish birdie on the 16th hole as his partnership with Victor Dubuisson saw off Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley 3 and 2.
“I think that half was as a good as a win,” said European captain Paul McGinley.
“We have seen in Ryder Cups over the years how important momentum is and we showed real strength of character to respond to that American surge and get blue back on the board.”
Westwood, playing his ninth Ryder Cup, and rookie Donaldson played some of the best golf of the day to beat Furyk and Kuchar 2-up in the alternate shot format.
Rose and Stenson got their second point with an impressive victory having earlier hammered Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 5 & 4.
Dubuisson, another debutant, and McDowell were too strong for Mickelson and Bradley, who had beaten world numbers one and three McIlroy and Garcia on the last hole in the fourballs.
Europe’s strongest-looking team were off the pace almost all day but finished with two brilliant birdies on 17 and 18 to salvage a half against rookie Walker and Fowler, who themselves came from three-down to halve with Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer in the morning.
The US seeking a first win on foreign soil since 1993, had taken the morning fourballs 2-1/2 points to 1-1/2 after the gusting conditions left many players struggling.
That group did not include American rookie duo Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, however, as they silenced the usually ebullient Ian Poulter and Scottish new boy Stephen Gallacher with a crushing 5 & 4 win.
Defending champions Europe ended the day two points ahead of the Americans with Saturday’s fourballs and foursomes to come before Sunday’s 12 singles matches.
It was different in the morning with the United States, inspired by a brilliant display by rookie duo Reed and Spieth, leading by 2½-1½ after a topsy-turvy opening fourballs session in the 40th Ryder Cup.
Holders Europe, helped by a magical stroke from Sergio Garcia who holed out from a greenside bunker at the fourth, held the upper hand early on but the visitors fought back strongly.
Spieth, 21, and Reed, 24, forming the youngest partnership in the history of the biennial team event, crushed out-of-sorts Ian Poulter and Scottish debutant Stephen Gallacher 5 & 4 in match three.
The first contest was dominated by Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson as they swept to a 5 & 4 win over Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer let slip a three-hole lead to halve their match with Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker while Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley beat world number one Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia one up in the final match.
“Something I’ve learned from Jose Maria Olazabal, from Monty (Colin Montgomerie) and from the guys I’ve been vice captain under and guys I’ve played under is that you’re not going to win every session,” said McGinley.
“We’ve lost more sessions than we have won in recent times but it’s important not to panic and it’s important to look at the 24-hour period rather than just one session and then assess and go again.
“I had an overall, as I call it, a skeleton plan. What I saw in the morning, I still thought there was no reason to change that. I wanted to get all 12 players out on the course today and we did that. Now I feel we’re in a better position to adapt and make decisions going forward.”
The US now face an uphill battle if they are to claim their first win on foreign soil since 1993 when Watson first captained but the veteran was in no mood to concede.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “And it’s all probably going to be really close come Sunday.”
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