ST.-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – There were no more stripes in the September sun and Phil Mickelson did not play golf at all.
But the main trend remained unchanged at the Ryder Cup on Saturday, when Europe continued to build its lead on the United States with Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood leading the construction project.
Ahead with two points after Friday's games, Europe today takes the lead with 10-6 in the decisive singles matches on Sunday, while trying to win back the cup, the main team trophy of golf.
After finishing the last session on Friday, Europe dominated the morning four-ball session on Saturday, winning three of the four games with the only American victory coming from their most successful team of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in the last game.
The Americans and Europeans then split the four alternative shot matches in the afternoon, leaving the four-point gap between the teams unchanged in the 12 singles-games of Sunday.
"If you look at those 12 American names, it is a strong line-up," said European captain Thomas Bjorn. "It can go in all directions, but we are really happy with how it went these first two days."
For now, Bjorn, while he looks like a man in need of a good night's sleep, has done well to keep his players fresh and concentrate on the present. He has also succeeded in setting up the rolling Albatros course (and his thick roughness) to match the strengths of Europe and to choose his combinations and his 12-headed row.
After two days, Bjorn & # 39; s four captains have combined picks for six wins. The four picks of the American captain, Jim Furyk, have only one.
But while Bjorn can be happy with the results so far against a powerful American team that has the best combined world ranking of all American team in history, he also knows that a 10-6 lead is not impregnable.
In 1999, Europeans lost the Cup after a 10-6 lead over the last day at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass. In 2012, the Americans blew a 10-6 lead at Medinah Country Club at Chicago.
"History will show me and everyone on the team that this is not over yet," Bjorn said. "You'll get bored tomorrow."
Furyk played, unlike Bjorn, both in 1999 and 2012, losing one of the critical singles matches to Sergio García in Medinah.
"It was certainly bad on the other side, I will say that," Furyk said of 2012. "That was one of the worst days of my career."
Generating early momentum on the last day was the key to both of those comebacks, which ended with 14½-to-13½ victories. The Americans, who won the last Ryder Cup in 2016, only need 14 points this time to keep the trophy. With a quick start in mind, Furyk tried to load his singles lineup with his in-form players.
"We're trying to make some magic tomorrow," said Furyk, who made a point of speaking with Ben Crenshaw, the emotional captain of the American team in 1999. Crenshaw predicted famous on the eve of the comeback that he had "a feeling" that his team would gather.
Justin Thomas, a Ryder Cup rookie who has never played in winning three games this week with Spieth, will be the first to come out on Sunday and face Rory McIlroy.
Brooks Koepka, the Floridian who won two majors this year, is second against Paul Casey. Then Webb Simpson is confronted with Justin Rose, one of the European leaders, followed by Tiger Woods against the Spaniard Jon Rahm.
"I think if we can get two and three points from the first two, three matches, it's going to be a pretty calm, uncomfortable feeling here," said Spieth. "And that will clearly be the goal."
It was all but silent on the rolling Albatros lane in Le Golf National. Although there were questions about the level of home support that the European team could expect with France hosting a Ryder Cup for the first time, the fans, many of them British, have emerged forcefully and with full force. It was a more hostile European crowd than in the past, where the spectators regularly drifted American miscues and missed putts.
But then this is a new Ryder Cup market in a country where golf is not a mainstream sport for spectators. Although the French do not have their own players, the French spectators have sung their national football team again: "Allez Les Bleus!" (Go Blues). The color of the European team is also blue and there is a lot of blue on the scoreboards here.
Molinari and Fleetwood have been the most irresistible force and have become the first European club that all four are competing in a Ryder Cup.
"That link came from long conversations with both of them and a relationship that they have built together for a long time," Bjorn said. "They wanted to do this and when they both said they were very excited about that link, I started looking at facts and figures and everything that was built around them." Talk to the boys and the vice captains, there was never a red flags with the two of them, so I thought, OK, we will try. "
Neither Molinari nor Fleetwood had a won match in the Cup for this year. Fleetwood is a rookie and Molinari was 0-4-2 in two previous appearances. But he has taken his precision game to a new level in 2018, winning his first major at the British Open in Carnoustie while playing in the same final round with Woods.
Molinari continued to torment Woods in Le Golf National defeats him three times in two days with much help from the more demonstrative Fleetwood.
Woods arrived high in France after winning his first tournament in five years, but he has been shivering a lot of his time on the job, grimacing and trying to get the best out of difficult lies and long putts. There has been speculation by former Ryder Cup captains such as Nick Faldo that Woods suffers from back pain or another condition, pointing to changes in his swing. Furyk said he was not aware of such an issue, but he did not rule out physical or psychological fatigue.
"I think he might be a bit tired emotionally," Furyk said. "You find a way in a Ryder Cup to win some energy and adrenaline, and you work hard, I know he will be fit and ready to leave tomorrow."
Molinari and Fleetwood defeated Woods and Patrick Reed, 4 and 3, on Saturday morning as Reed, one of the pillars of the last two American Ryder Cup teams continued to struggle from tee to green. Furyk chose to equip Reed Saturday afternoon and not to use 48-year-old Mickelson in either session on Saturday.
But Woods was back at the age of 42 with the Ryder Cup rookie Bryson DeChambeau for the fourteen. This time Molinari and Fleetwood triumphed again, 5 and 4, combining to make four birdies and not one bogey in the 14 holes they had to play.
"It will not be easy to be separated tomorrow" Molinari said about Fleetwood.
Woods, whose overall Ryder Cup-record is now 13-20-3, does not have to deal with either of them on Sunday. Fleetwood deals with Tony Finau in singles; Molinari is confronted with Mickelson.
But the wind, which has blown all week at Le Golf National, is still on the back of Europe.