Ryder Cup ready for thrilling finale
Colin Montgomerie hailed it as one of the truly great days for European golf as his side turned a two-point deficit into a three-point lead at Celtic Manor.
The captain's plea to play with more passion had sparked the turnaround, and after another morning's washout, the European team were able to relight the fire and clinch five-and-half points out of the six to march into Monday's re-scheduled singles leading 9.5-6.5.
The crowd played their part, implored by Montgomerie to be their 13th man, and the great snakes of humanity slithering, literally at times, around the Usk Valley, were treated to a tenacious front-running display by Europe and a spirited attempt at a fightback by America.
Of all his players Montgomerie saved a "special mention" for Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, who imbued the fighting spirit by scraping a half after trailing by one on the 18th tee.
"It gave us a big difference. They are going to walk very tall after what they achieved," he said.
But Montgomerie said the "amazing" day would count for nothing if Europe don't reach the decisive 14.5 points they need to win back the Ryder Cup.
The USA overhauled a 10-6 deficit to win the infamous Brookline event in 1999 after an inspired resurgence that will always be remembered for the invasion and celebrations on the 17th green after Justin Leonard's huge putt dropped.
And Montgomerie, who suffered horrendous vocal abuse by the charged-up crowd that day, insisted his team were braced for a US reaction on Monday.
"There's no resting for our team," he said. "We are going here as if it's tied to try to win the singles. If we do that we'll win. There will be nobody backing down from that goal."
US skipper Corey Pavin has opted not to recreate the sort of rabble-rousing employed by counterpart Ben Crenshaw, who invited then Governor George Bush to recite a text from the Alamo before the singles in 1999.
"When you have the crowd going crazy, it's easier to show more emotion and you can egg them on a little bit and it's fun," he agreed.
"I don't think these guys need encouragement. They have all the motivation in the world to come out and play their best and try their hardest. They are playing with pride and passion and will do that again on Monday.
"Is Europe ahead? Absolutely. It's nice to have a cushion. Can you come back from it? Absolutely."
The players from both sides will now be exposed, alone against the opposition without the comfort of a partner. Characters will be tested to the full. Reputations made and broken.
The Englishman has won two and lost four of his Ryder Cup singles but is now being asked to take on the crucial lead-off role performed twice by his captain.
Montgomerie, unbeaten in his six singles matches, is employing the old tactic of trying to get off to a fast start, to get blue on the board, engage the crowd and build the momentum.
He's chosen Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald in the next two slots but Pavin has matched strength with strength with world number four Stricker, the in-form Stewart Cink and recent Fed Ex Cup winner Jim Furyk.
Despite the two Americans' relatively poor Ryder Cup records, and their less-than-convincing performances this week (Woods has two wins and a 6&5 defeat, Mickelson three defeats), the world rankings would suggest comfortable wins.
Pavin, though, knows that it doesn't work like that in matchplay. And Woods's only defeat in five Ryder Cup singles was against another Italian, Costantino Rocca, in 1997.
"I've seen great players lose matches that you never think they would. I've seen players that you wouldn't give much chance do some amazing things," he said.
They know all about that in these parts. Local hero Phil Price took out the mighty Mickelson in the famous win at the Belfry in 2002.
Europe need five points to win, and how fitting it would be that the inspiring Ian Poulter could be the man to sink the winning putt in his first event on home soil.
It's unlikely to go to script, though. And that's what makes the Ryder Cup truly great.