Europe took a 9½ 6½ lead into the singles and captain Colin Montgomerie stacked the top of the playing order with his strongest players in an effort to close out the match early.
In the top game, Europe’s talisman Lee Westwood came up against an on-song Steve Stricker and the American ran out as a 2&1 winner to put the first point on the board for the USA.
Dustin Johnson almost immediately added to the away team’s tally, racking up an impressive 6&4 win over USPGA champion Martin Kaymer.
Ian Poulter struck back for Europe. The Englishman had confidently promised he would return a point before going out and he was true to his word, playing some sensational golf to see off Matt Kuchar.
Rory McIlroy kept the European scoreboard ticking over by securing a hard-fought half with Stewart Cink. The Northern Irishman was in danger of losing out when his bunker shot from the 18th, greenside, tumbled back into the sand. But, the youngster regained his composure and got up and down for a par 5 – good enough to tie the 2009 Open champion.
Luke Donald and Miguel Angel Jimenez played some incredible golf to win their respective matches against Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson, but the pressure then began to build on Europe.
Francesco Molinari came up against an imperious Tiger Woods. The world number one lost the first two holes but then fired off five birdies and an eagle in the space of seven holes to storm away from the Italian and win by 5&3.
Francesco’s brother Edoardo Molinari looked to have his match against Rickie Fowler sewn up at three up with three holes to play. But the young American finished superbly with three straight birdies to earn an unlikely half.
Molinari’s half point took the European total to 13½ with one more needed for victory. Both Ross Fisher and Padraig Harrington lost their matches, however, and that meant the score was tied at 13 ½ all with everything resting on the final match between Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan.
McDowell had been three up but Mahan had pegged the deficit back to just one with three holes left to play.
But the Northern Irishman made an amazing birdie at the par-4 16th to extend his lead to two. When Mahan failed to get up and down from the side of the 17th, he conceded and the match and exuberant European celebrations commenced.