The fat lady ain't ready to sing just yet, as Saturday's first session in the Ryder Cup – fourballs which produced records and drama – contrived to bring Europe and the United States closer together.
In claiming the fourballs by 2 ½ to 1 ½ for a second straight day, the USA – who had trailed overnight by 5-3 – narrowed the gap to a single point heading into the second sessions of foursomes. An exhilarating morning's play on the PGA Centenary Course produced roars that resonated around the hills, inspired by a plethora of birdies.
No-one managed to create those roars as lustily as the top European pairing of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, who continued their scintillating form with a 3&2 win over Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. That simple scoreline hides what unfolded, in one of the most riveting fourballs in the Ryder Cup's history, with the Europeans managing 12 birdies and the Americans nine in the 16 holes played.
If that match proved to be Europe's only win, there was a drama-filled finale to the bottom fourballs as Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, seemingly on course for victory when two up at the turn, were forced to play second fiddle for much of the back nine to Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker. This match was transformed with Fowler's hole-out from a greenside bunker on the par three 10th for birdie, which was followed by a Walker birdie on the 11th, hitting a wedge approach dead, and then the Americans going ahead for the first time with another Walker birdie on 13.
To their credit, McIlroy and Poulter hung on for dear life and matched birdies to halve the 14th and 15th (where Poulter audaciously chipped in from the front of the green). A winning birdie on the 16th, where Poulter got first blood from 18 feet with McIlroy just four feet from the hole, followed and levelled matters.
Fittingly, the match was shared - in birdies – on the 18th, which left matters all square. It gave Europe a precious half point to retain their overall lead, and enabled the USA to win the session (their other wins came from Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan who beat Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood 4&3 and from Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth who trounced Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer 5&3) and reduce the match deficit to a single point.
Stenson, who has been troubled slightly by a niggling back injury, defied any discomfort to maintain his wonderful partnership with Rose and extend the winning sequence to three from three. However, the Swede was rested for the afternoon foursomes match, with Kaymer brought in to partner Rose.
“He played phenomenal. It was definitely him that was the backbone in our team,” said Stenson of Rose, who has played the best golf of all over the first day and a half.
Rose pointed out that Watson and Kuchar would have won "nine of of 10 matches" with their own display. Of his fabulous display of putting, Rose explained: "It's been a combination of a lot of hard work. It's just the anticipation of what it's going to feel like to make putts and then getting zeroed into it and getting really focused. We have those rare moments in the game and I think Ryder Cup is amazing because the pressure is so much that you have one choice, you either focus or you struggle. Obviously I went the right way with it all."
Afternoon Foursomes (Europe in bold)
Donaldson / Westwood V Kuchar / Johnson
Garcia / McIlroy V Furyk / Mahan
Kaymer / Rose V Spieth / Reed
Dubuisson / McDowell V Walker / Fowler
Morning Fourballs (Europe in bold)
Stenson / Rose beat Watson / Kuchar 3&2
Furyk / Mahan beat Donaldson / Westwood 4&3
Reed / Spieth beat Bjorn / Kaymer 5&3
McIlroy / Poulter A/S Walker / Fowler