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Europeans narrow deficit, set up Sunday shootout
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The number is seven. That's the points Europe must squeeze out of Sunday's 12 singles matches if it is to retain the Ryder Cup for the fourth consecutive time and in six of the last seven times.
The thing is, the team from across the pond turned Sunday into an anything-can-happen day by closing a three-point deficit at the start of the day by a point after an incredible 12 hours of taut drama and electric shot making that left every member of each team and thousands of bedazzled spectators drained by the time the final putt dropped as night settled at Valhalla Golf Club on Saturday.
To hear the Euros speak afterward, though, one might get the impression they owned the Americans' 9-7 lead rather than the other way around.
"I think we're even,'' European captain Nick Faldo said Saturday night. "The team is very upbeat. We know and believe we have a great opportunity.''
There likely isn't a man on the European team who wouldn't say amen to those words.
|Sunday's Singles Matches|
"We gathered a huge piece of momentum today,'' said England's Ian Poulter, a controversial captain's selection by Nick Faldo who has come up with a golden, 3 ½-point performance through two days. "The boys are proper, proper pumped.''
Poulter was the guy priming the pump Saturday as he teamed with a pair of Ryder Cup rookies to win a pair of matches. First up was Justin Rose as he and Poulter blew out Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell, 4 and 3, in the morning foursomes. Then along came he and Graeme McDowell, putting on an amazing display of wizardry on the Valhalla greens to defeat Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk, 1 up, in a memorable fourball match.
"Ian came up big. Full stop,'' Faldo said. "He has been great in the team room and great on the golf course.''
Poulter will not be able to do it by himself Sunday against a determined American team eager to bring its losing Ryder Cup ways to a halt. But he and Rose set the tone for the European rally Saturday by handily winning the first foursomes match off the tee. It quickly showed the team wasn't pressing after the United States slept on a 5½-2½ advantage, the first time the Americans held the first-day lead since 1995.
"I think we all just knew we had (the result) in perspective,'' Rose said. "We knew 5½-2½ wasn't a great day, but you're one session away from tying it or even going into the lead.
"Yesterday was a long day. We all got back to the hotel really late. So there wasn't much to be said other than the fact that there's a long way to go.''
It is 24 hours later and there still is a long, long way to go. But the European road was made a little shorter Saturday, especially when Henrik Stenson and rookie Oliver Wilson rallied from 4-down through six holes to defeat Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim, 2 and 1, in the third fourball match. It was a huge point and confidence boost at precisely the right time.
"For Stenson to turn that match around with Ollie Wilson, that was just fantastic,'' Faldo said. "What a match they had. The guys managed to keep themselves loose. What an amazing moment that was.''
If truth is told, just about all of the moments in Saturday's 12 hours of action were amazing. The Europeans managed to have more of them, but just marginally. Despite the fact that six of the eight Saturday matches could have gone either way, the Europeans sounded like they won the lion's share.
"The Ryder Cup is all about momentum,'' McDowell said. "We knew we had to come out and put points on the board today. It was hugely important for us, two-point deficit going into tomorrow with 12 points up for grabs, it's wide open.
"I have to say, coming out of that team room tonight, everyone is pumped up. Everyone is feeling really, really good and we are 110 percent up for this tomorrow.''
Poulter admitted late Saturday that the happenings earlier had become "a bit of a blur'' and the toll of playing four intense matches in two days was immense.
"I don't think I've got any legs under there right now,'' he said. "They've gone kind of numb. It's very, very draining.''
He paused and then sounded what could be the European's battle cry for Singles Sunday.
"I just hope I've got a lot left in the tank for tomorrow, because tomorrow is going to be a helluva day,'' he said.