Europe’s record-breaking pair of Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg were brought back down to earth as the United States attempted to launch a fightback in the Ryder Cup.
Hovland and Aberg thrashed world number one Scottie Scheffler and five-time major winner Brooks Koepka 9&7 in the second day’s foursomes as the home side moved to within five points of retaining the trophy in Rome.
But it was a different story in the afternoon fourballs as the Scandinavian pair lost 4&3 to Sam Burns and Collin Morikawa, the latter having missed a short putt on the 13th to secure an even more comprehensive win.
Max Homa and Brian Harman were also on course for their second win of the day as they led Tommy Fleetwood and Nicolai Hojgaard by three holes with four to play, with the bottom two matches much closer.
Justin Rose and Robert MacIntyre were one up on Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth after 11 holes, while Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood were all square with Patrick Cantlay and Wyndham Clark.
Koepka and Scheffler had been five over par for the first three holes in their record 9&7 defeat, the largest margin in any 18-hole match in the event’s history.
Scheffler was pictured fighting back tears and being comforted by his wife Meredith as the enormity of the loss sank in, the previous biggest margin being 7&6.
The PA news agency understands Scheffler lobbied to be given the chance to make amends in the afternoon fourballs but was left out by US captain Zach Johnson.
The only bright spot of the morning session for the visitors came when Homa and Harman secured a first win of the contest, the former chipping in for an eagle on the 16th to see off Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka 4&2.
However, moments later McIlroy and Fleetwood completed a hard-fought victory over Thomas and Spieth, the Northern Irishman holing the winning putt from 12 feet on the 17th to secure his third point.
“Last night we talked about enjoying what we did yesterday but coming out and showing no mercy today and the way Ludvig and Viktor started off set the tone,” McIlroy said.
“I’m delighted to get another point on the board for Europe.”
Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton also had to work hard to secure their second victory together when they lost three holes in a row to Cantlay and Xander Schauffele to be pegged back to all square.
However, Hatton’s birdie putt on the 16th edged them in front again and Rahm then came agonisingly close to making a hole-in-one on the 17th.
Cantlay responded with an excellent tee shot of his own, but Schauffele’s birdie attempt from three feet caught the edge of the hole and span out.
That made the overall score 9.5 to 2.5 and meant Europe needed just five points from the remaining 16 for victory.