It was an absolutely epic day at Valhalla today, with golf of the highest standard played throughout. Points were hard won and fought over but he difference from yesterday was that it was the Europeans who were holding on to leads, fighting back from behind as the momentum swung their way. Massive performances from the likes of Poulter and McDowell, Stenson and Karlsson and the unheralded Oliver Wilson saw a real swing in momentum towards Nick Faldo's boys, who though they remain two shots behind, will be brimming with confidence heading into the singles. The decision by Faldo to rest his three big guns Harrington, Garcia and Westwood today, paid off handsomely for him as the others stepped up to take their place. It could be crucial going into the singles now that they may be that little bit fresher than they would have been.
The first match out in the Fourballs did not go the way of the European cause as the Pairing of Westwood and Hansen struggled to cope with an inspired Boo Weekley. All the talk of JB Holmes getting the crowd going became a distant memory, as the homeboy Kentuckian took a backseat to the firm fans favourite Boo. An amazing cross green chip early on brought the first crescendo of "Booooo's" from the partisan crowd as he gave the US the early advantage in the match, and it was a sound that followed him right the way around the course. JB Holmes massive length off the tee eventually paid dividends for him as he made eagle on 10 and the Americans were cruising at three up. Westwood was making putts but they were only for halves and it was Hansen who made the first dents in the lead as he made long birdie putts after the turn to get back to one down on 13. But the Boo's were back with a vengeance on 14 as Weekley holed a huge putt, which just dropped in left edge to double the lead once more. When Holmes then missed his putt on 17 to clinch it, Westwood faced a 15 footer to take it down the last but it lipped out to give the Americans the first point of the Fourballs 2&1. Westwood appeared a little subdued after the match, more upset at not getting anything for the team than seeing his 12 match winning streak come to an end. I wonder if in the aftermath it will come out that Lee, not best pleased to be "rested" for the foursomes, was one man not best pleased with Captain Faldo.
The second game of Curtis and Stricker vs Garcia and Casey was a real nail biter of a match. There was only won hole won by either side throughout as chances went begging and spectacular clutch putts were made. The Americans were up early on as Curtis holed a long one to claim the second. But things got going when Garcia drained a huge one on 8 to put the pressure on Stricker, El Nino screaming cries of "COME ONNN!" in his Spanish twang, pumping his fist as he began to look like the Garcia of Old (the rest clearly helping him out). Stricker however showed why he has a reputation as one of the best putters on tour as he halved the hole with a celebration only partially less muted than Garcia's. Sergio drew hisses from the watching US fans as he slapped the ground with his club seeing his eagle chip squeak past the hole on 10 but brushed it off with a wave in their general direction. Stricker could not make birdie however and the Europeans had it back to All square. Casey, who was much the quieter for the most of the match seemed certain to pick up a hole on 13 as he knocked it to just a few feet, but once more Stricker made a big ask and holed from the back of the green to keep things even. More dogged drawn holes saw the match to the 18th. Casey had been largely reliant on Sergio all day, Garcia with four birdies, Casey only providing one but as Stricker made birdie on the last, Casey finally made a putt to halve the hole and the match. Casey will have to up his game tomorrow in the singles as he has made criminally few birdies for a man with his power. Sergio looks like he may be getting into this Cup at last.
The third Fourball of Perry & Furyk against Poulter and McDowell ( or G-Mc as his team seem only to refer to him as) was an absolute cracker. There can be no doubt as to what the Ryder cup means to Perry and Furyk, it's written all over their faces and there is plenty of fight in these old dogs. It took awe-inspiring displays of putting from the Rookie pair to live with them at times but no-one has answered more questions when it mattered this week than this European pairing. In Poulter did what he has consistently done in all his our matches this week and got off to a flyer. Birdie at the first nudged them into an early lead which would last as far as the second green, Perry indicating this match was going to be a real high quality shoot out, taking it back to all square quick as lightning.
Perry duffed a chip over a bunker into the sand on the 7th however and with Furyk 30 feet past with his approach, Poulter made his birdie to nudge into the lead once more with McDowell inside him with an unneeded birdie chance. Poulter then finished the back nine as he started, taking a birdie and watched on as Perry pushed his four footer by the hole. Two up. They had to, McDowell particularly required to hole some real tough ones on the back nine to keep the Americans who were really trying to charge, at bay. The effort showed on the pumped up Furyk, who celebrated his magnificent iron shots, only to see McDowell hole from 15 feet, 12 feet, 20 feet at times to keep the advantage. On 17 Furyk ignited eruptions from the crowd as he was the only one to make birdie out of the four, all having been within 12 feet. His ball did a full 360 degrees before deciding to drop and Furyk looked a man possessed as he marched off putter in hand; That putt took them up 18 with the Europeans needing to cling on for one more hole to pick up a very important point.
Perry and Furyk both made the par five green in two, while McDowell just failed to carry the bunker by around a foot. Poulter got his five wood second all wrong as the pressure seemed to tell on him. But it only seemed to focus him all the more on his pitch. Forty yards or so from the hole, he delicately bumped it on to around two feet, piling the pressure onto the Americans Eagle putts. Neither could make them and after McDowell just missed with his birdie effort, Poulter popped in his tricky tiddler to take the point for Europe.
Having been the most controversial of picks and having slid to a defeat in his first match that at one point appeared unthinkable, he has now more than justified his inclusion. Sensational stuff all week. The only man asked to play all four matches this week and it proved a shrewd move from Faldo, three points from four for Ian and the team.
The last match saw Phil Mickelson team up with Hunter Mahan, the only two players to play all four for the US, against the Swedish team of Stenson and Karlsson. Exchanging holes on 1 and 2 with birdies from Stenson and Mickelson, a second birdier in succession for Big Phil had the US pair one up after three. It stayed like that until the 7th where a 20 foot eagle attempt from Mickelson drew raptures from the crowds as he holed it. But Mickelson had been the wrong end of a huge comeback in the morning so he must have been nervous as they turned to come home. Robert Karlsson began what was an amazing run for him personally on the back nine at the 11th, a ten footer for birdie bringing the Swedes back to one down. Another birdie for Karlsson on 12 takes the match All Square as Phil's birdie effort lips out. Karlsson is on fire at this point, and would make it 6 birdies in seven holes for him and it took some going from the US pair to stay with him. Stenson then got in on the act on 17, his 25 foot effort stopping on the very edge of the hole, millimetres from dropping. Then I got my heartiest laugh of the day, as Mickelson, after a stunning iron to only four feet or so and soaking up the generous reaction, misses the putt as he so often does on short testers. The deadlock remained. On 18, it came down to Mahan and Karlsson, Mahan's birdie chance sliding by but having done so much on the back nine already, the giant Swede couldn't squeeze out another birdie and the match was halved and fairly so.
One of the best Days you could imagine at the Ryder Cup, I've never seen putting like that in my life before, McDowell and Karlsson's back nines were ridiculously good under the highest pressure, holing from way outside their opponents most of the time. If they and Poulter can keep that form for the singles, the job will be half done already. It's gonna be a spicy one.