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Obscure pair add to U.S. deficit

You have to be an astute observer of European golf, a Golf Channel junkie with insomnia, to have even the slightest clue about David Howell and Paul Casey.

They are a couple of Englishmen with game, although not enough to warrant much action in the Ryder Cup. Despite playing just one match in two days at Oakland Hills Country Club, they managed to steal the good cheer of the Americans, and may very well have kept the coveted Cup on the other side of the Atlantic.

Howell, who has but a single European PGA Tour victory, and Casey, who played college golf at Arizona State, rallied from 1-down with two holes to play Saturday to knock off Americans Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell, and that carried into an afternoon dominated by the Europeans.

The result was an 11-5 advantage heading into 12 singles matches today, a deficit that is all but insurmountable. The Americans need 9{ points, and the most they have earned on Sunday since the current format began in 1979 is 8{.

""Morale-wise, it's a crushing blow for the people who lose that match on the team," said Lee Westwood, who is undefeated for the Europeans. "I tell you what, that's the biggest part of the week there, it made a massive difference. I think we all owe David Howell and Paul Casey a beer."

After starting the day five points behind, the Americans put themselves in position to sweep the four morning matches. Davis Love and Stewart Cink knocked off Europe's top team of Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington, and Tiger Woods and Chris Riley dispatched Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter. The United States was headed toward captain Hal Sutton's goal to win five of eight points.

Although Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas settled for a half, despite an early lead against Westwood and Sergio Garcia, a win by Furyk and Campbell would mean making up three points.

But the Americans couldn't hang on. Howell birdied the 17th hole to tie the fourball match. Then Casey's two-putt par at the 18th stole the point.

The stunned Americans dropped three of the four afternoon foursome matches to fall six points behind.

"I think it took some energy away, but more importantly, it gave them energy," Sutton said. "They fed off the fact that they held us off on that. It was a moral victory for them because they felt defeated all the way around all morning long until the last hole. Momentum switched right there."

""Many of you probably thought I'm sacrificing a point when I sent them out," European captain Bernhard Langer said. "But I really felt deep down they would be the surprise of the morning."

Casey and Howell became the first rookie pairing to win in the Ryder Cup since Andy Bean and Lee Elder in 1979. Casey, 27, is a three-time winner on the European tour who played at Arizona State, where he won three straight Pac-10 titles.

Howell, 29, is much more obscure. He had played all of four tournaments in the United States before last week, and his lone European victory came in 1999.

"We were the light at the end of the tunnel," Howell said. "We were 2-up and then all of a sudden 1-down and you could hear the crowd get more and more into it. And to come back from that, we played the last four in a couple under between us, and I think we're both delighted."

And the Americans were deflated. The three afternoon defeats included a 4-and-3 whipping of Woods and Love. Phil Mickelson and David Toms, benched in the morning, provided the only U.S. win, 4 and 3 over Thomas Levet and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

No team has overcome a deficit as large as the one the United States faces. In fact, only five times in Ryder Cup history has a team come back to win when trailing heading into the final day. The last occurred in 1999, when the United States trailed 10-6 and won a remarkable 8{ of 12 points. None of the previous comebacks was from more than two behind.

The European celebration was only tempered by the memory of that collapse in 1999 in Brookline, Mass.

"We have too much respect for the American players," Paul McGinley said. "We have a great lead, but the lessons of Brookline have been learned. We've had two really good days, but we have a long way to go."

But the distance is much shorter thanks to Howell and Casey.

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