Europe dominates U.S. to seize big lead heading into Monday singles

Francesco and Edoardo Molinari stole a half point from the U.S. with a halve against Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar.
Angus Murray

NEWPORT, Wales — The rain finally let up, but Europe did not.

Led by resounding victories from its two foursomes teams and tight victories in the four fourball matches, Europe completed a rain-delayed comeback for the ages that began late Saturday and ended late Sunday, and heads into Monday's 12 singles matches ahead 9.5-6.5 at Celtic Manor.

Europe won five-and-a-half points in the rare six-match session ending Sunday, erasing America's lead and then some, and touching off a chorus of "Ole, ole" among faithful patrons who braved the Celtic mud pit.

"Last night we felt great," said Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, who with Rory McIlroy beat Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson 3 and 1 in one of the two alternate-shot matches. "The team room was elated, and we were very keen to make sure we got back on that golf course today and make sure that Team USA were going to be fired up and they were going to come after us, and it was important to keep that foot down."

The 1999 U.S. Ryder team overcame a 10-6 deficit with a furious rally in singles, but that was on home soil, and Europe has the momentum after a 24-hour blitz that the United States would just as soon forget.

The only highlight came courtesy of Georgia Tech alumni Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar, but even that turned bittersweet when Francesco Molinari birdied 18 to salvage a halve with brother Edoardo.

The rest of the day was as messy as the conditions for the U.S.

Lee Westwood and Luke Donald hung a 6 and 5 defeat on America's most potent team of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, who had won six straight matches dating back to last year's Presidents Cup but looked tired.

It was the worst ever Ryder defeat for Woods, who saw his record this week drop to 2-1-0, while Westwood moved to 2-0-1.

Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton, who holed his approach for eagle on the par-4 eighth hole to briefly energize the Americans, lost 2 up to Swede Peter Hanson and Spaniard Miguel-Angel Jimenez.

It was one of five matches to go to at least the 17th hole.

Because of Friday's rain delay, organizers were forced to nix the usual four-match sessions in favor of two, slightly awkward six-match sessions.

The first one, Saturday, was made up of alternate-shot matches, and the Americans rallied to maintain their lead, 6-4.

But they hit the wall in the second six-match session.

"I really do think that the way this worked, this new format, did favor Europe," said European captain Colin Montgomerie.

The two 12-man team sessions meant that neither captain would get to sit any of his struggling players, which might have comforted Americans Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, who each moved to 0-3-0 for the week.

Rickie Fowler and Mickelson came back to square their match against Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter, but Mickelson three-putted the 14th hole, both Americans failed to birdie the easy 15th and Europe won 2 up.

After a pair of losses with Johnson, it was Mickelson's third loss this week and his 17th in eight Ryder appearances, most ever for an American.

His career record moves to 10-17-6.

Johnson, who has looked lost on the slow, water-soaked greens, didn't fare much better with new partner Jim Furyk as Europe's Ross Fisher rang up six birdies and Fisher and Padraig Harrington won 2 up.

Rain, which wiped out much of Friday's action, returned Sunday morning to cause more problems, postponing the start of play until 1:30 p.m. and forcing the first ever Monday finish in this event.

"Everybody involved in organizing this first Ryder Cup in Wales is deeply disappointed by the weather," said Sir Terry Matthews, chairman of Celtic Manor. "But our biggest disappointment is for the spectators and sponsors who deserved so much better."

Some questioned holding a Ryder Cup in Wales during rainy season, but Europe's inspired play changed the narrative from one of precipitation to redemption. The forecast calls for a mix of sun and clouds, so by day's end Monday Europe should be able reclaim the trophy it lost in Louisville, Ky., in 2008.

At last the Ryder Cup appears to be near an end. After one of the most lopsided sessions in history, America's chances may have ended already.

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