LOUISVILLE, Ky. Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood watched their teammates cut into a commanding U.S. lead at the Ryder Cup on Saturday, then returned to the course to try to bring the Europeans even closer.
The visitors closed a three-point deficit to 7-5 by winning two matches and halving another during the morning session at Valhalla Golf Club.
Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry gave the Americans their only outright win before lunch, beating Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson 3-and-1 in an alternate-shot match.
European captain Nick Faldo was criticized for his decision to bench Garcia and Westwood, the two longest-serving members of their team. But the move seemed to work out just fine, and both players were fresh for afternoon better-ball.
"It's a bumpy road at times, isn't it?" Faldo said. "You come off the road a bit, and we're back on the road again now."
Fan favorites Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes tried to stem the European momentum in the first afternoon match, building a 3-up lead over a rested Westwood and Soren Hansen with eight holes to play.
Weekley, showing no signs of backing off from his arm-waving antics the day before, revved up the gallery as soon as Westwood's birdie attempt at No. 7 slid by the cup to put the Americans two holes ahead.
Holmes added to the margin at the par-5 10th with a conceded eagle after a brilliant second shot to 5 feet. He, too, waved his arms on the way off the green as the crowd roared for a native Kentuckian.
Phil Mickelson bounced back from a stunning loss in the morning he and Anthony Kim squandered a 4-up lead after six holes with two birdies and an eagle in the first seven holes in the afternoon. The new pairing with Hunter Mahan was 2-up on Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson.
Ben Curtis and Steve Stricker, who struggled mightily in the only U.S. loss of the first day, were 1-up on Garcia and Paul Casey at the turn. The fiery Garcia and normally reserved Stricker went at each other with dueling fist pumps after both made birdie putts at No. 8.
The only afternoon lead for the Europeans was provided by Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, 1-up on Perry and Furyk after eight holes.
The Americans are seeking their first Ryder Cup since 1999, the "Miracle at Brookline." They've lost three in a row since then, and five of six overall.
A strong opening gave the Americans a commanding 5 1/2-2 1/2 lead, their largest after a first day since 1979.
But the raucous crowd grew restless when Mickelson and Kim, the most talented U.S. duo, squandered a big lead to Henrik Stenson and unheralded Englishman Oliver Wilson, the only player to sit out both sessions Friday.
Wilson closed out the match 2-and-1 by rolling in a 30-foot birdie at the 17th. Mickelson had a chance to extend it to 18, but his 20-footer rolled wide of the cup.
Watching with his hands on his knees, Kim's head dropped as the ball slid by. The Americans knew they had let a big one slip away, surely raising doubts for a team that's lost three in a row and five out of six in this series.
"Momentum is absolutely everything in this Ryder Cup," McDowell said. "It was huge for us to get some numbers on the board for the blues. Everyone is digging really deep. We're over here to win this trophy."
Poulter and Justin Rose kept up their solid play, giving the Europeans the first point of the day. They defeated Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell 4-and-3, wrapping it up at No. 15 when the erratic American duo posted their fourth bogey of a round that also included a double bogey.
Cink lost two balls, burying his tee shot in a hazard at No. 2 and chunking one into the water at No. 7.
Mahan and Justin Leonard, who won their two matches Friday, had a chance to give the Americans a full point when Leonard rolled in an 18-foot birdie at the 17th for his team's first lead of the round. But Mahan's tee shot at the par-5 final hole skipped through a bunker left of the fairway and wound up on a steep up-slope.
Leonard could have salvaged the match with another clutch putt, but his 12-footer wouldn't drop. McDowell, paired with Miguel Angel Jimenez, calmly sank his birdie from 5 feet to gain a crucial half point for the Europeans.
"It was a good half," Leonard said. "I would love to have made that putt at 18, but both sides played well."
Not so for Mickelson and Kim. They fell apart after a dynamic start, failing to make a birdie beyond the fifth hole on a course designed for going low. The Europeans squared the match at No. 12 after Kim drove into a thick pile of leaves far right of the fairway and Mickelson failed to get it out.
Trouble struck again at the 15th. Mickelson's wayward drive missed the fairway, and Kim tried an unnecessarily bold shot around a tree, the ball striking a European official and plopping into a creek.
Fortunately for the Americans, Furyk and Perry led from start to finish in their match to prevent the Europeans from getting closer. Harrington and Karlsson bogeyed the first and never caught up, trailing by as many four holes before the U.S. closed it out with a conceded birdie at No. 17.
"We've still got the lead," Mahan said.