By Simon Lewis, Hazeltine National
Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello gave Europe the perfect Ryder Cup boost going into Saturday's afternoon fourballs as they fought back to square their foursomes match with American stars Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
The Spanish duo's half point was celebrated as if it were a victory and rightly so because they had been four down to the Americans with six holes to play and scrapped their way back to parity at the 17th after rookie Cabrera Bello putted in from the fringe.
Then Garcia, who had missed from 18 inches at the 11th to allow the United States to go four up, holed a difficult two footer for the half to complete the session and leave Europe trailing by just 6.5 to 5.5.
“We still believed,” Garcia said afterwards. “We never give up for sure.
“Obviously after the little putt I missed on 11, it didn't look great. But we kept at it. They kept throwing darts at us. We made an amazing birdie on 12 to halve the hole, thanks to my partner's putt. And we just saw a little window they gave us and we grabbed the moment.
“We came back strong and actually had to fight hard to not lose the match. That was a great, it was a very well-played match.”
Europe had trailed 5-3 going into day two at Hazeltine having fought their way back from a 4-0 deficit after Friday morning's opening foursomes.
Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters' Friday-night fourball victory over Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar had helped snatch the mometum away from Davis Love's Americans and Darren Clarke sent the same pairing out first on Saturday morning to keep it going.
Drawn against Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson, who had beaten McIlroy and Andy Sullivan in Friday's morning foursomes, McIlroy had a chance to finally inflict a Ryder Cup defeat on the veteran left-hander Mickelson at the fourth time of asking.
With Belgian rookie and captain's pick Pieters, McIlroy did just that, sealing a 4&2 victory and get the day up and running with some European blue on the scoreboard.
“You want to set the tone for rest of the team and when they saw us up early, that's exactly what we were trying to do, get up early on them, put blue on the board and luckily Darren had a lot of faith in us to send us out first,” McIlroy said, before expressing his delight at finally beating Mickelson.
“When I saw the draw last night, I was like 'yes', I get to have a go at him again. My record against him in the Ryder Cup isn't what I would like it to be. So personally I maybe wanted it a little bit more for that reason.
“But just to go out first, put a point on the board for Team Europe, that's what we wanted to do. We wanted to start the session off in the right vein. As Thomas said, we've got very similar games and I think that helps in foursomes as well.”
Europe went on to win the session 2.5 to 1.5 with the Americans' full point coming from Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, who scored a 3&2 win over Henrik Stenson and Matt Fitzpatrick, tasting his first action of the weekend having sat out Friday's play.
In a similar boat to Fitzpatrick, Chris Wood was on the winning side with Justin Rose as they won Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson one up, the halved match between the Spaniards and Spieth and Reed making it a one-point match with Saturday's fourballs and Sunday's 12 singles matches remaining.