- Associated Press - Sunday, October 3, 2010

NEWPORT, WALES (AP) - What a day for Europe! The home team nearly pulled off a clean sweep Sunday, taking a huge step toward reclaiming the Ryder Cup with a performance that wiped out Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the rest of America’s stars.

The Ryder Cup will be finishing on a Monday for the first time, and it has all the makings of a huge European celebration at soggy Celtic Manor.

Captain Colin Montgomerie’s squad kept the scoreboard bathed in blue all day. When it was over, Woods had the worst loss of his Cup career, Mickelson was the losingest U.S. player ever and the defending champs faced a daunting 9 1/2-6 1/2 deficit heading into singles play.

“Just a great day,” Ian Poulter said. “The key was just try and put your foot on the pedal and keep going.”

The margin is not insurmountable, however.

The Americans are traditionally stronger in singles play, and they overcame a 10-6 deficit on the final day at Brookline in 1999. But that match was at home, with a raucous crowd cheering them on.

The Europeans will be hearing most of the cheers when they tee off in extra time, with the match extended to a fourth day by torrential rains at the first Ryder Cup in Wales. Officials changed the schedule and still hoped to finish by Sunday, but another drenching during the night turned the course into a swamp.

The suspended team matches finally began nearly four hours behind schedule, but that did little to stem the European momentum from the previous evening. They were leading in all six matches at nightfall Saturday, and they were leading in all but one by sundown Sunday.

Even the lone American bright spot _ a half-point contributed by Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar _ felt like a loss. The U.S. duo led 1 up going to the 18th hole, but Francesco Molinari, playing with brother Edoardo, stuck a wedge shot to 3 feet and rolled in the birdie putt to win the hole and halve the match.

The crowd roared, serenading the Europeans with chants of “Ole! Ole! Ole!” as they headed off to the clubhouse. The Americans staggered to their team room, wondering if they could come up with another Brookline comeback.

“We had that lead,” Poulter said. “They were coming back at us, but you know what, it just shows how strong this side is. We kept our noses in front, and looking up at that board, seeing a sea of blue is huge motivation to keep knocking it close and keep knocking those putts in. It gives us a nice position to go out tomorrow and do exactly the same.”

Asked if his team still had a chance, U.S. captain Corey Pavin said, “Absolutely.”

“We’ve got 12 of the best players in the world. They have 12 best players in world, too. In match play, anything can happen,” he said. “One thing I can guarantee you is team USA is going to come out tomorrow, play hard and try to win the Ryder Cup.”

Woods had been unbeaten in his pairing with Steve Stricker. Not anymore. Lee Westwood, returning from a seven-week injury layoff to play some of the best golf of his career, teamed with Luke Donald to blow away the Americans 6 and 5 in alternate shot.

Westwood ended it with a 6-foot par putt at the 13th, reducing Woods to the role of U.S. fan the rest of the day. He stayed on the course, cheering on his teammates, but all he saw was one defeat after another.

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