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Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker atoned for a Friday loss by beating McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in 18 holes, and the Americans took an 8-4 lead to the afternoon. All the momentum was on their side. The crowd felt it, and so did the players from both teams.

“It was hard — very hard — to ignore the red on the board,” McDowell said. “It’s hard to ignore the noise that’s been made around the golf course. There’s blood in the water. They’re up for it.”

That’s what made those last two matches so critical.

Woods did not play Saturday morning, the first time he’s ever been at the Ryder Cup in uniform without a tee time, and he didn’t contribute much in falling so far behind. But he turned it around on the back nine, pointing to the cup when a birdie putt fell, screaming orders at his tee shot as the ball was in the air, looking like he was on the verge of a big comeback. Donald and Garcia, who had yet to win a point, made sure that didn’t happen.

“That was big,” Donald said. “Having these matches turn our way has really given the European side a lift that we needed. It’s given us a heartbeat for tomorrow.”

Poulter and McIlroy came up big in so many ways. The Americans had won every match at Medinah when leading on the back nine until the final match. McIlroy made his sliding birdie putt from 15 feet on the 13th hole, and Poulter did the rest.

“Poults gets that look in his eye — especially the week of the Ryder Cup — and it’s really impressive,” McIlroy said.

The Europeans now hope to repeat the American comeback in 1999. The Americans had Ben Crenshaw, wagging his finger and saying, “I’m a big believer in fate.” The Europeans have Olazabal, a proud Spaniard and teammate of the late Seve Ballesteros. This is the first Ryder Cup since his death from a brain tumor in May 2011, and the Europeans will dress in navy blue, the color Ballesteros favored on Sunday. Their uniforms will bear his iconic silhouette.

“It’s always possible,” Paul Lawrie said. “Until it’s impossible to do it, then you fight on, certainly for José María this week. No one is going to be giving up.”