MEDINAH, ILL. - The second day of the Ryder Cup began with Ian Poulter encouraging fans at the first tee to scream while he hit his drive, as five planes soared above the Medinah Country Club, skywriting, "Seve: Go Europe.''
The day ended almost 12 hours later with Poulter sinking a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th green in the gloaming, at once honoring the legendary competitiveness of the late Seve Ballesteros and giving Europe a puncher's chance heading into the Sunday singles matches.
"I think the Ryder Cup should build a statue of him," said European captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
Thanks to Poulter, sports fans around the world with various definitions of the word "football'' have a reason to watch golf Sunday. He almost singlehandedly dampened another day of American dominance, winning two matches with two partners, and making birdies on his last five holes of the day.
The United States will take a 10-6 lead into the 12 singles matches on Sunday, needing 4.5 of of a possible 12 points to win the Cup back from Europe. If not for Poulter and Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia winning the last two matches of the day by one stroke, Sunday would have been nothing more than an American parade.
"I surprise myself," Poulter said. "Match play: I like the fight of it. You get to stare your opponent in the face."
Poulter's opponents must be sick of his bulging eyes. After his last putt, he screamed so loud he scared McIlroy. "I could have just waited in the clubhouse," McIlroy said. "It was the Poult show.''
Only after Keegan Bradley left the stage. Saturday morning, Bradley and Phil Mickelson won for the third time in three tries, tying a Ryder Cup record by beating Donald and Lee Westwood 7 and 6.
The United States won three of the four morning matches to take an 8-4 lead.
"Ben Crenshaw said it can happen," Europe's Justin Rose said between sessions. "And I just really feel if we can get it close, I think everything will hit and we'll start to get a little bit frantic out here, and the American team will feel that."
Rose was referring to Crenshaw, the American captain in 1999, hinting that his team would rally to victory after trailing 10-6 entering Sunday at Brookline. The Americans did win, spoiling Sergio Garcia's debut. "It would be nice to give it back to them, the way they gave it to us,'' Garcia said.
That was the last time a Ryder Cup team rallied from four points down on the final day. Poulter provided the chance for golf's version of a Hail Mary pass.
He's 11-3 in the Ryder Cup. He's ranked 26th in the world. Where would Poulter rank as a match-play competitor? "Zero,'' he said. "That's better than No. 1."
Mickelson is in the Hall of Fame but would cut his golf mullet if he could have Poulter's Ryder Cup record. Before 2012, he was 7-13-6 when playing with a partner, and his overall Ryder Cup record was 3-12-3.
Then he talked team captain Davis Love III into letting him play with Bradley. The pair is 3-0 in this competition, as Bradley has mimicked Poulter's fearlessness while driving the ball much farther.
"Keegan's been a rock star,'' said Donald, Euro star and Chicago resident.
Bradley and Mickelson gave the U.S. a chance to dominate, and the Americans held a 10-4 lead late in the day, after Dustin Johnson made a long birdie putt on the 17th green. "That's the loudest roar I've ever heard,'' Johnson said.
Not long after, Donald made his own birdie on 17 that staved off a Tiger Woods rally and gave the Euros their fifth point.
Poulter fired up the crowd before the first shot of the day, and quieted it with his last shot, a 12-foot putt on 18.
Did he ever doubt that putt was going in? "No," he said. "I've got my teammates behind me. I'm not going to miss it in front of them.''
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org