NEWPORT, Wales – Europe had its blue numbers all over the scoreboard Saturday evening as throaty cheers rang out from every corner of Celtic Manor. All the Americans had in their favor was a darkening sky – and for now, the lead.
A typical day of momentum swings in a most unusual Ryder Cup ended with the Americans ahead 6-4 and Europe feeling like a winner. It led all six matches on the golf course, which included a beatdown of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
“I’d say it wasn’t a bad thing that it got dark,” U.S. captain Corey Pavin said.
There has never been a day at the Ryder Cup quite like this one.
Sixteen players from both sides competed in parts of three matches. The opening fourballs session ended before lunch, followed by six alternate-shot matches, and play finally was stopped with six matches of both formats still going on. On two occasions, a fourball match allowed an alternate-shot match to play through.
“I’m not sure what day it is,” Zach Johnson said.
These matches are far from over. Heavy rain was in the forecast for today, with 12 singles matches still to play after the third session is completed. Any stoppage in play would result in the first Monday finish in Ryder Cup history.
About the only thing that resembled a typical Ryder Cup was 11 hours of golf at its highest level.
Woods and Stricker won their second straight match convincingly, Stewart Cink delivered a clutch putt and 21-year-old Rickie Fowler atoned for a bizarre blunder by making a birdie on the 18th hole for an unlikely half-point. Padraig Harrington won his first match for Europe in six years and Lee Westwood looked like a player on the verge of going to No. 1 in the world.
But the final two hours changed everything.
Europe came roaring back behind Westwood, Luke Donald and a host of others, taking the lead in every match and pulling some 40,000 fans who stood in the muck back into the game.
“Although none of these games finished, obviously we are in a very, very strong position,” European captain Colin Montgomerie said. “It was a very important two hours of play, and we came through it with flying colors.”
Europe had lost only four holes of the 39 that were played in the third session.
“We’re just going to have to go back tonight, rest up and fire at them tomorrow,” Pavin said. “We’re down in all six matches. I have not seen points given for matches that are through four, five, six or seven holes. So we are going to go out and try to turn those around, and try to turn the momentum back in our favor.”
Westwood and Donald, who have emerged as the European stars at Celtic Manor, might make that difficult.
They won the first two holes – Stricker missed the first green with a 9-iron in hand and Westwood holed a birdie putt on No. 2 – then let the Americans self-destruct. Woods couldn’t make a putt as they fell further behind, and the only positive note came on the ninth and final hole when Stricker made a 12-foot putt. Europe still was 4 up with nine holes to play in its foursomes match.