An enthralling day of Simpson Cup golf reached a nerve-wracking crescendo on Tuesday afternoon as Team USA just about weathered a late GB comeback to take a 4-2 lead after the fourball matches at Oak Hill's West Course on Tuesday.
For much of the day, a sea of red had engulfed the scoreboard, and it seemed that a 5-1 scoreline or more was on the cards for the home team. However, Team GB rallied in matches four and five to pull off a crucial half point in each to leave things finely poised going into the singles tomorrow.
Regardless of the overall score, galleries in excess of 500 looked on in awe as the players across the field put on a golfing exhibition under the Rochester sunshine. Incredibly, 48 nett birdies (despite adjusted handicaps) were amassed between the six groups, as both sides fought tooth and nail for every inch.
However, it was Team USA's day in the end, and captain Steve Ogletree, who led from the front by winning his match 3&2 with partner Andrew Bachelder, was delighted with the efforts of his charges on day one.
"I'm so proud of the way my guys played today," he commented afterwards. "We said this morning that we were going to go out and have fun, keep the smiles on our faces and give it our best shot, but everyone to a man just rose to the occasion today.
"Credit to the Brits - they don't make it easy, and they showed a lot of guts this afternoon to pull things back. But we've got to be happy with a two-point lead, and we're going to go out tomorrow guns blazing again. Hopefully it will be enough to bring the Cup home."
Captain Paul Swain, who has unfortunately been sidelined with injury this week, had been all over the course rallying his troops, and he was very pleased to see his team pull things back after a sluggish start.
"We knew the Americans were going to come out hard at us this morning, and you can't argue with the golf they played early doors today," Swain acknowledged graciously. "But I always knew our lads are made of tough stuff, and to see the way they delivered the goods in those closing holes today was brilliant.
"We know we've got a tough task ahead of us tomorrow, but I can assure you we won't be going down without a fight, and we're going to do everything we can to retain this Cup."
Both teams fielded two of their biggest guns in the first match, with Chad Pfeifer and Chris Bowers taking on the impressive GB duo of Mike Browne and Rob Hansen. Nothing other than an epic showdown was expected and the players didn't disappoint; exchanging blows, and with neither team able to establish a significant lead throughout the contest.
However, a remarkable up and down by Bowers at 17 saw them retain their slender one-up lead, and his sensational approach at 18 closed the door. One point on the board for Team USA soon became two, as Ogletree and Bachelder finished things against John Devlin and Dave Hughes at the 16th. The skipper enjoyed a day to remember, making no fewer than six nett birdies on the day.
At that time, games four, five and six were all going the way of the Americans too. However, in the third match, vice-captain Paul Skivington and Greig Phillips made a great run after the turn against Jonathan James and Jake Nelson, and it was Phillips who sealed the game at the 17th hole with an ice-cool up and down.
The first point for Team GB seemed to be the catalyst for a stirring comeback. Andy Stevens and Pete Wood had trailed for much of their encounter with Jason Leap and Dave Romanowsky, and at two down with four to play, things looked grim. However, Stevens made two fine putts for par in a row on 15 and 16 to clinch both holes, and suddenly the game was all square.
The last two holes were tense to watch, but the players held their nerve - Leap holing a good putt at 17, before Wood made a fine sand save on 18 to put the pressure on Romanowsky. The big Texan stepped up to the plate though, and made no mistake with his four footer to finish a memorable game at all square.
In the final game, Team USA's Shawn Whitmore and the in-form Chris Hall were too good for Ian Bishop and Dave Ward, romping to an impressive 4&3 win. But up ahead, local boy Todd Tongue and Ivan Cotto were facing a late wave of pressure from the Northern English duo of Tony Lowndes and Alex Hiles.
The Americans had enjoyed a three-hole lead by the 11th hole, but Hiles strung together an excellent run from the 12th, and after Lowndes made a steady par at 17, the British duo were suddenly dormie one to the good. However, just as the scoreline looked to be heading towards the knife edge of 3.5 - 2.5, Cotto pulled off a remarkable chip from behind the 18th green, almost holing out to hark back memories of Corey Pavin in the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill.
His par was good enough to win the hole though, and it ensured that his team could breathe a little bit easier overnight. Indeed, on balance the scoreline was a fair one, as the home side played some superb golf on the day. However, Ogletree and his men need look no further than the events that Sunday of the Ryder Cup in '95 to realise that this match is a long way from being over. One thing's for sure, there are going to be fireworks in the singles tomorrow, and Oak Hill is the place to be.
(Please note, you can view the lineup for the singles and keep track of all live scoring on Wednesday by clicking here.)