NEWPORT, Wales, October 4 – Europe took a stranglehold on the weather-disrupted Ryder Cup here on Sunday, seizing a commanding three-point lead over the United States to set up a historic Monday finale.The Europeans crushed the Americans in the third session, winning five and a half points out of the six on offer to turn a two-point overnight deficit into a potentially decisive advantage heading into Monday’s climactic singles.
Europe, leading 9 1/2 to 6 1/2, now need only five points from the 12 available on Monday to win back the trophy they lost at Valhalla in 2008.
Europe captain Colin Montgomerie described the performance as "one of the greatest days" in the team’s history — but said there was no chance of his players resting on their laurels.
"All credit to everybody in that team today. All 12 on that course performed brilliantly," Montgomerie said. "In my time I truly believe that that was one of the greatest days for European golf that we have had.
"To turn a two-point deficit into a three-point lead was quite amazing. To stop America winning a match — fantastic.
"But all this will be pointless if it is not continued tomorrow. There’s no resting for our team. We’re going out tomorrow to win the singles session."
United States captain Corey Pavin insisted his team would be able to come back after what was a catastrophic day.
"We’ve got 12 of the best players in the world and in match play anything can happen," Pavin said.
"The one thing I can guarantee to you is that Team USA is going to come out firing tomorrow. They have to go out and perform and play and if they do that we have a chance."
Play will go into a fourth day for the first time in the biennial showpiece’s 83-year history after torrential rain deluged Celtic Manor earlier on Sunday, wiping out six hours of playing time.
When play finally resumed at 1:30pm (1230GMT), Europe immediately managed to regenerate the momentum that had swept them into leads in all six matches on Saturday, rapidly overhauling the Americans’ overnight 6-4 lead.
Lee Westwood and Luke Donald produced some superb golf to beat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker six and five, a one-sided rout of the star American pair that had watching skipper Montgomerie beaming with delight.
The European duo, starting the day at four up, reeled off three consecutive birdies — including one extraordinary 40-foot putt from Westwood — before closing out comfortably to win the foursome.
Woods and Stricker — unbeaten in six previous matches together — were left to reflect on the heaviest Ryder Cup defeat in foursomes for 15 years.
Montgomerie said the scale of their defeat had buoyed Europe.
"When Woods loses six and five that is a serious defeat for the rest of the American team," said the Scot.
In the other foursomes match, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy hung on to defeat Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan three and one to give Europe their second point of the day and level the overall scoreboard at 6-6.
McIlroy wrapped up the win by draining a birdie putt on the par three 17th to deafening roars from the gallery.
The four fourballs ended up being tighter affairs but Europe held their nerve to win three out of four.
Irishman Padraig Harrington and rookie Ross Fisher beat Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson three and one.
Sweden’s Peter Hanson and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez defeated Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton by two up in their fourball to give Europe an 8-6 lead.
The decisive moment came on the 16th, when Jimenez sank a 20-foot birdie putt to pile the pressure on Overton, who promptly missed a 15-footer to halve, which left the home team one up.
The Europeans then held their nerve to halve the 17th before winning the 18th to give Montgomerie’s team a vital point.
Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer then defeated Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler two and one to extend the lead to 9-6.
It appeared for a while that the Americans would be able to register at least one victory when Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar led by one hole going down the 18th against Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari.
However, Francesco Molinari hit an astonishing approach to set up a birdie four and grab an unlikely half for the Europeans.