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Europe takes control

NEWPORT, Wales — It might be all over but the shouting at the Ryder Cup after Europe turned a two-point deficit into a 91/2-61/2 lead Sunday.

Europe, favored going into the three-day proceedings — which were turned into four-day proceedings by ongoing bad weather — gathered 51/2 points out of a possible 6 and appeared to take the remaining drama from this international competition.

The Ryder Cup will finish on Monday, the first fourth day of competition in its 83-year history, with 12 singles matches. The United States needs a total of 14 points to retain the cup it won at Valhalla in Louisville in 2008, or 71/2 more. Europe needs 141/2, or 5 more, to reclaim the cup.

With European players performing as superbly as expected, and with crowds of more than 40,000 hanging around despite the ever-present cloudbursts and sending roars of approval echoing throughout the valley every time a European player made a putt, the prospects for the Americans do not look good.

U.S. captain Corey Pavin put on a brave face, as he has throughout, and said, "I'm proud of our team today. I saw 12 players who fought hard and held their heads high."

European captain Colin Montgomerie called the day "one of the greatest days for European golf we've had."

The five European matches were won by the teams of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and Ross Fisher, Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez, and Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer. But perhaps the most excitement and drama was provided by the Molinari brothers of Italy, Edoardo and Francesco, who managed a half-point in their match with a birdie on 18 against Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar, the best U.S. team.

Montgomerie took special note afterward.

"To do what they did at the last hole, two rookies, two brothers, coming down to that last hole with everybody in Europe who plays golf watching," he said. "Fantastic performance."

Pavin chose to say little about the failures of his team, choosing the high ground of good effort and another day tomorrow. Those failures would include the loss of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to Donald and Westwood 6 and 5. It marked the worst loss for Woods in the Ryder Cup, and the biggest victory margin since Sam Torrance and Costantino Rocca beat Davis Love III and Jeff Maggert 6 and 5 in 1995.

Another surprising result for the U.S. was the continued poor play of Phil Mickelson, ranked No. 2 in the world behind Woods. Mickelson lost with rookie Rickie Fowler to Poulter and Kaymer, and it marked his 17th Ryder Cup defeat, a record for U.S. players.

Interestingly, Pavin's pairings for Sunday's singles left Woods going off eighth and Mickelson 10th, perhaps so late in the proceedings that their results will be irrelevant.

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