The United States will need their own version of the ’Miracle at Medinah’ at Gleneagles after another brilliant foursomes performance gave Europe a 10-6 lead heading into the final day of the 40th Ryder Cup.
For the second day running, the home side won a record three-and-a-half points from the afternoon session to move within sight of an eighth victory in the last 10 contests.
“We are not finished. We have a lot of work to do and we have to be on it in the morning,” insisted European captain Paul McGinley, who was a vice-captain in Chicago two years ago when Jose Maria Olazabal’s side recovered from the same deficit.
And world number one Rory McIlroy, who claimed his first win of the week alongside Sergio Garcia, added: “There is no complacency on our side. We know it’s the score it was in Medinah two years ago.”
US captain Tom Watson, who left Phil Mickelson out for the entire day for the first time in 10 Ryder Cups, said: “First of all we have come back from 10-6 (at Brookline in 1999). They know it and I’ll reiterate it.
“Our rookies played some magnificent golf and tomorrow let’s see what happens. We have the players to come back. Credit to the Europeans, they played some great golf. It seems the foursomes is their forte.”
With a 5-3 lead overnight, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson had given the home side the perfect start with an amazing 3&2 win over Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar, the home pair making 10 birdies in succession from the seventh to finish 12 under par for 16 holes.
However, that was the only fourball win for McGinley’s side as Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan beat Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson 4&3 and rookie pair Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed thrashed Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer 5&3.
And it took some belated heroics from Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter to ensure he and McIlroy claimed half a point against Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler to keep the home side in front by 6 1/2 to 5 1/2.
Poulter holed a pitch from short of the 15th green for birdie to avoid going two down and also birdied the par-five 16th, but by that stage had already been left out of the afternoon foursomes.
McGinley kept faith with Westwood and Donaldson and was rewarded with a hard-fought 2&1 win over Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar, which gave Westwood his 23rd point in the Ryder Cup, half a point more than the late Seve Ballesteros and just two short of the record held by Nick Faldo.
Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson then cruised to a 5&4 win – their second foursomes success – over Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler, with McDowell once again hailing his rookie French partner.
“I can’t say enough about how talented this kid is,” McDowell said. “He might be the best player I have played with since Rory McIlroy and that’s saying a lot.”
The other two matches were far closer, with Garcia and McIlroy halving 10 holes in succession against Furyk and Mahan before birdies on the 14th and 16th sealed victory.
“I would love to take credit for it but I think Rory beat three guys today,” Garcia said. “I was not at my best but Rory calmed me down a lot.”
Rose and Kaymer won the 12th and 15th to get back to all square against Spieth and Reed and were then given an amazing let-off on the 16th, Reed missing from two feet for par after his opponents had made an ugly six.
The US pair won the 17th to take a lead up the last, but found an impossible lie in a greenside bunker and were forced to play away from the pin. Kaymer had a more straightforward shot from the same hazard and, when Spieth missed his birdie attempt, Rose converted from five feet to snatch a half.
“We had our chances but when we were walking up the 18th I said to Justin we deserve at least a half,” Kaymer said. “I said let’s put it on the green and make three but we had a good up and down instead.”