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Hovland and Aberg lead Europe’s Ryder Cup charge

Europe’s Viktor Hovland (left) and Ludvig Aberg celebrate on the second green during their foursomes match. (AFP pic)

ROME: Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg led the charge with the biggest foursomes win in Ryder Cup history as Europe piled the pressure on a shellshocked US today, extending a record overnight lead to 7.5-1.5.

Captain Luke Donald said yesterday he wants a “historic week” from Europe, gunning to reclaim the Ryder Cup lost in a record 19-9 thrashing two years ago at the hands of the US who are trying to win on this side of the Atlantic for the first time since 1993.

And his team has already delivered that at the Marco Simone course in Rome with Hovland and Aberg’s 9 and 7 destruction of Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka, the only player in the field from the Saudi Arabia-backed rebel LIV Golf circuit.

The Scandinavian pair steamrollered Scheffler and Koepka in the sort of display which Donald would have been dreaming of before his team arrived for work with the Eternal city still enveloped in darkness.

European captain Donald opted to switch the usual schedule and open with the alternate shot foursomes instead of fourballs and his team have made sure that decision has paid off handsomely.

The Americans didn’t win a single match in a day for the first time yesterday and the board was dominated by blue today with the first pairing of Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood leading Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas by two with three holes to play.

A large and loud crowd have delighted in the performance of the European team, and the players have responded to that passion with performances that will leave the US’ chances hanging by a thread if they don’t turn the tide in two of the remaining three matches.

Max Homa and Brian Harman are the only bright spot for the US, three up through 13 and surely set to register a first victory for the US, who captain Zach Johnson said yesterday were suffering from an unspecified illness going through his camp.

The day started in emotional fashion as glorious sunshine slowly crept over the course and buoyant home fans chanted “Europe’s on fire, USA is terrified” as McIlroy and Fleetwood waited to tee off in the opening match.

Supporters unfurled a large banner depicting Spanish Ryder Cup icon Seve Ballesteros, bringing vice-captain Jose Maria Olazabal to the verge of tears at the Italian message “forever in our hearts”.

Johnson’s team didn’t hit the first fairway until Patrick Cantlay teed off in the final match of the morning, against Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, and a series of poor shots and missed putts left them firmly on the back foot.

Mountain to climb

The US already had a tough task as yesterday Europe snatched halves from three matches on the final hole to shut off a valiant attempt at a comeback from a dismal morning.

A 4-0 whitewash in the foursomes had given the Americans a hill to climb as steep as those which undulate around an idiosyncratic Italian course given a major redesign for this year’s event.

Thomas and Spieth played out a thrilling tie in the afternoon’s fourballs with Hatton and Hovland, who holed his 20-foot birdie putt on the final green.

McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick dismantled Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa 5 and 3 in the fourth fourballs match to briefly put Europe 5.5-0.5 ahead.

The US were still in control of the other two matches, but Jon Rahm chipped in for eagle on the short par-four 16th before draining a 30-foot eagle putt on the 18th to steal half a point with Nicolai Hojgaard against Scheffler and Koepka.

Europe looked even less likely to avoid defeat in the final match on the course with Justin Rose and Robert MacIntyre 2-down to Max Homa and Wyndham Clark with two to play.

But a Rose par on the penultimate hole took the match down 18 and the oldest player in this year’s event showed all his experience by calmly rolling home an eight-foot birdie putt with all of his teammates watching on.