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On soggy day, Europeans brilliant

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, left, and Rory McIlroy celebrate their 3-and-1 victory in foursomes at Celtic Manor.

Associated Press

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, left, and Rory McIlroy celebrate their 3-and-1 victory in foursomes at Celtic Manor.

NEWPORT, Wales — Europe could only dream of a Sunday like this at the Ryder Cup.

The Europeans gave Tiger Woods his worst beating ever, hit all the right shots to spur on a foot-stomping, flag-waving crowd and kept the Americans from winning a single match.

Too bad this won't end until today at soggy Celtic Manor.

Bolstered by blue on every leaderboard, the Europeans won five matches and halved the last one when Francesco Molinari knocked in a 3-foot birdie putt and celebrated with his brother, Edoardo. That stretched their lead to 9½-6½.

Europe needs to win five of the 12 singles matches to reclaim the gold trophy.

"In my time — 20 years since I've been playing Ryder Cup — this is one of the greatest days for European golf we've ever had," captain Colin Montgomerie said. "To run a two-point deficit into a three-point lead was quite amazing. To stop America from winning a match, just fantastic."

Lee Westwood inspired from the start. He teamed with Luke Donald to demoralize Woods and Steve Stricker, who had never lost in six previous matches. Europe was 4-up when the matches resumed, and Westwood and Donald rolled until they had a 6-and-5 victory.

"When you're playing Tiger, you just seem to up your game a little bit," said Westwood, who is 6-1 in team matches against Woods. "I supposed he's got nothing to win — apart from the point — but he's got a big reputation."

Rain again soaked the course, forcing a five-hour delay and pushing the Ryder Cup into a Monday finish for the first time in its 83-year history.

Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar were the only Americans to lead in a match, and they had to settle for a half-point against the Molinaris.

Only once since this format began in 1979 has Europe had the lead going into the final round and failed to win. That was in 1999 at Brookline, Mass., when the Americans overcame a 10-6 deficit behind a home crowd that was raucous and unruly.

"We have done it before, and no reason why we can't do it again," Woods said bravely.

"There have been special days," Phil Mickelson concurred, "and we're going to need another one."

But most Americans didn't talk. They left the course quickly and stayed in the team room.

"I left it up to the players to do whatever they would like to do," captain Corey Pavin said. "It's their choice to talk or not to talk."

'G Mac' and 'Wee Mac'

Less than an hour after knocking off Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan in foursomes, the Northern Ireland pairing of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy tried to sort out nicknames.

McDowell was asked whether he preferred "G Mac" or "Big Mac."

"I know I could do with shedding a few pounds," he said, "but I'll definitely stick with G Mac."

"I guess," said McIlroy, 21, "that makes me Wee Mac."

Their win in the second foursomes (alternate-shot) match Sunday brought Europe even at 6-6.

"To get that first win under my belt in the Ryder Cup is fantastic, and to do it alongside this guy is even more special," McIlroy said.

McDowell said the two friends had been talking about forming a Ryder Cup partnership for a few years.

"I'm going to miss him (today)," said McDowell, referring to singles matches, "but I know he'll be doing his job, and I'll be doing mine. … It's been everything we imagined it could be."

Calling in sick

Colin Montgomerie wants all those European fans to take another day off.

The Ryder Cup was supposed to end Sunday, but two rain delays forced the competition into today. Fearful of crowding, officials decided to allow only those with final-day tickets to return for the deciding matches at water-logged Celtic Manor.

Of course, some of those 40,000 fans surely had to be at work or had travel plans that couldn't be changed. That is sure to mean smaller crowds cheering on the home team when it needs them most, a prospect that seemed a bit troubling to the European captain.

"Quite a few of them might need a sick note," Montgomerie said. "We do hope that as many people as possible with Sunday tickets will turn up."

Quick hits

The depth of the European team is evident: All 12 players helped score at least a half-point in team matches Sunday. … Despite their 6-and-5 loss, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker are the only Americans with two wins.

Number of the day

17 Ryder Cup losses for Phil Mickelson, who passed Raymond Floyd for most in a career. Playing in his eighth Ryder Cup, Mickelson ran his career record to 10-17-6.

Quote of the day

"All this will be pointless if this isn't continued (today)."

Colin Montgomerie, European captain on the momentum his team gained in taking a 9½-6½ lead over the United States

Fast facts

38th Ryder Cup

Where: Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales

Today's schedule: 12 singles matches, each worth one point. The United States is defending the cup and needs 14 points to retain it; Europe needs 14½ to win it.

Forecast: 20 percent chance for rain

TV: Coverage began at 4 a.m. on USA.

On the Web: Live streaming on rydercup.com

On soggy day, Europeans brilliant 10/03/10 [Last modified: Sunday, October 3, 2010 10:03pm]

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