ROME - Europe picked up just where they left off by storming into an early lead in the Ryder Cup foursomes on Saturday, with crowd favourites Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy - dubbed Fleetwood Mac - winning the first three holes of the first match.
Unsurprisingly, European captain Luke Donald decided to use the same four foursomes combinations that swept the board 4-0 on Friday morning, and it was again looking a good policy after the early exchanges with Europe leading in two, level in one and down in one after the first hour's action.
He did shuffle the order slightly, sending McIlroy, who won both his Friday matches, and Fleetwood out first, perhaps as part of a strategy to get the crowd firing early on, and how it paid off.
Unlike on Friday, opposite number Zach Johnson did not keep his gun pairing of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth kicking their heels until the afternoon, putting them out as his lead pair.
However, they were horribly off-beam early on as Fleetwood’s 35ft (11 m) putt on the second ignited the crowd.
The first three Americans pairings missed the first fairway from the tee, and a double bogey by world number one Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka gifted Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg the first. They surged on to win the next three to be four up after four.
If the crowd wasn’t pumped up enough already, the presence of Seve Ballesteros’s son Javier on the first tee as a huge poster of the Spanish superstar was rolled through the grandstand pushed them over the edge.
"Seve is an inspiration every time," said Donald. "He was the ultimate European Ryder Cup player who made everyone else play better. He had so much passion for this event and wanted to win at all costs. We always respect Seve and he is a big part of the Ryder Cup for all of us.
"It's a clean slate today, 0-0 this morning," Donald added. "There are a lot of points to be won for either side. We have to go out and take care of business and win this session.
"You always have to be careful of a wounded animal like the U.S. are today. They have a stacked team, are very strong, and we are not taking them for granted one bit."
The Americans know they need to start the fightback early if they are to have any chance of ending Europe's 30-year unbeaten run at home.
Europe's 6 ½-1 ½ overnight advantage equalled the record biggest day one lead, was the first time they have led after the first session since 2006 and had the U.S. reeling after failing to win a single match in a day for the first time.
The numbers already had people looking at the event’s biggest comebacks. No team has previously overcome more than a four-point disadvantage after a session. In the "Miracle of Medinah" in 2012 Europe trailed by six with two Saturday afternoon matches still playing, both of which they won to propel them to one of the greatest comebacks in sport.
Since then, however, big leads have generally led to big wins, most recently at Whistling Straits two years ago when the U.S. turned their 6-2 first-day lead into a crushing 19-9 victory. REUTERS