Monty rocket ignites Europe revival
Colin Montgomerie was flustered, panicky even, at the start of Saturday's third session.
By the end of play the European Ryder Cup captain had less reason to stress. But he was still clearly agitated.
Montgomerie has put his heart and soul into winning back the Ryder Cup but a bunch of freewheeling Americans looked to be riding roughshod over his best-laid plans.
But the Ryder Cup is all about momentum. There are highs and lows along the way and going into Sunday, Europe are soaring. Theoretically, anyway. The scoreboard still says Europe 4-6 United States but the home side are up in all six unfinished matches - two foursomes and four fourballs.
If Friday's washout marred the start of the event, Super Saturday, one of the longest days in Ryder Cup history, was a feast with 16 matches on show, and six foursomes played in their entirety.
It may have been messy to follow at times, and there is an argument that some of the tactical intrigue has been lost, with the selection conundrum removed from the captains. But tell that to the paying public.
The all-blue scoreboard on Saturday night is no guarantee of anything, of course, but it puts a different hue on the match, which looked to be going the way of the US when Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar stole a point off Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy to conclude the earlier six-match foursomes session.
"It wasn't going so well this afternoon, to be honest with you," bemoaned Montgomerie. "It was a bit stale. I felt there wasn't enough passion on the golf course."
Sighing, emotional and distracted by his shoes ("I must throw these things in the bin") Montgomerie bizarrely embarked on a long monologue in his news conference.
He told us how he had implored the players to fire up the crowd and get them acting as Europe's "13th man". He also revealed he has asked for the giant screens to show less action on Sunday in order to display more of the scoreboard, and hopefully a profusion of blue.
And he admitted any further delay would result in a Monday finish and, perhaps crucially, dismissed notions of a shotgun start or revamped singles order, depending on when the morning matches finish, to get the competion finished on Sunday.
He gushed about how pleased he was to have Jose Maria Olazabal with the team and admitted a recording of the radio traffic on his team walkie-talkies may have rendered the air bluer than the morning's scoreboard.
He also hinted he may have given his side something of a "talking to" before the third session, and revealed he spent a long time trying to gee up McDowell and McIlroy after they let slip a one-shot lead with three holes to play.
Young McIlroy is still a work in progress after a number of errors at crucial moments. The 21-year-old had his moments, but missed a short putt for a half on 17 and leaked his pitching wedge approach into the right greenside bunker on 18, after finding the water with his second on the same hole earlier in the day to leave his partner under pressure.
As the third session got under way Montgomerie told TV: "We need to go into the singles at 8-8 minimum, minimum. (Monty says lots of things twice).
"All I can do is tell my players how good they are. We've got the motivational videos on with clips of them winning trophies and holing putts. I can't do any more. It's all about passion and want. All I can do is give them passion. The motivation is there from losing in 2008. They've got to want it and by God they do."
Monty's rocket seemed to have done the trick and Luke Donald and Lee Westwood set the tone by surging to a five-hole lead over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker before dropping back to four up at the close. Behind them, McDowell and McIlroy responded well and lead Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan by three.
In the other three matches, Europe are two up in two, and one up in two. Slim margins, but something for Europe to cling to.
"It was a very important two hours of play and we came through it with flying colours," said Montgomerie, who lauded Westwood and must also be pleased with the way Padraig Harrington is edging back to form in the company of Ross Fisher, who is growing in stature.
Indeed, Harrington, whose wildcard pick caused such consternation, won his first Ryder Cup match since 2004 on Saturday afternoon.
The last time a team came from behind after the first session to win was 1999 when the US overhauled a 2.5-1.5 deficit. Europe trailed by the same margin when Friday's fourballs were eventually concluded at 1045 BST on Saturday.
Should they hold firm in all six matches still on course, that would give them a 10-6 lead going into the singles, also the same as in 1999. Trouble is, that year the Americans came storming back to win. Further session comparisons don't really count because of the reworked format.
US captain Corey Pavin, as he has all week, remained level-headed and pragmatic. "I have not seen points given for matches that are through four, five, six or seven holes," he said.
Of some concern for Pavin must be the form of Woods. The world number one was carried by the putting of Stricker for much of the day and he cut a dejected figure after a series of wayward irons in the unfinished foursomes match.
The skipper wouldn't admit it, nor would he say that Phil Mickelson has disappointed so far, though he agreed the mis-firing partnership with Dustin Johnson needed to be split up. Mickelson, incidentally, last won a Ryder Cup point six matches ago in the second session in 2008.
If Montgomerie has put pressure on his side by demanding they go into the singles level at the very least, Pavin was less specific.
"Everybody is trying to do the best they can and that's all you can ask," he said. "Where we end up is where we end up. The objective is to have more points than Europe at the end of the competition."
When that is, we don't yet know. And Sunday's forecast is not promising. What we do know is that while the results of Sunday morning's resumption will be important, the fate of the Ryder Cup will be decided by the singles. There will be no hiding places.