Europe lifted by Poulter's "shot in the dark", says Monty

By Mitch Phillips

NEWPORT (Reuters) - Colin Montgomerie welcomed the format change to the weekend's remaining Ryder Cup action as a "brilliant solution" and said that Ian Poulter's sensational late putt on Friday night gave the Europeans a much-needed lift.

After losing more than seven hours' play to heavy rain and a waterlogged course, officials, trying desperately to avoid the event running over to Monday, came up with an ingenious new format where four pairs sessions will be squeezed into three.

The main effect of the change is that, after the opening fourballs are completed on Saturday morning, all 12 players on both sides will play two more pairs matches and none will be rested.

Then, if the weather holds at Celtic Manor on Sunday, the singles will begin around lunchtime with the traditional 28-point total unchanged.

"This new timetable is very, very good. This is a brilliant option," Montgomerie told reporters.

No longer faced with the always thorny issue of which four players to leave out of a pairs sessions, Montgomerie must now turn his attention to managing the logistics of what will be two very busy, tiring and somewhat confusing days.

"It will be tough on us all, because only one person is giving advice -- me," he said of the challenge of keeping tabs on so many matches. "I'll have fourballs finishing and foursomes starting. I'll have people all over the place.

"But I'm happy. I think I have more of a foursomes team than a fourball team, and I am very confident and remain so."

FLYING START

Europe had got off to a flying start in driving rain and were up in three matches and down in one when officials suspended play almost two hours after Dustin Johnson had got the competition under way.

The United States, however, hit back strongly after the action resumed and had reversed the situation to be up in three and down in one with the fourth match still live.

That was the third encounter, where Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker had just birdied the previous two holes to go one up on Britons Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher.

Poulter, however, defied the gloom to drain his second long putt of the day and level the match to leave the U.S. leading in two and down in one with the other all square.

"It was very important," Montgomerie told a news conference. "I was there on the 10th green with him and to hole that putt, it was very, very dark. It was well beyond the time we would have been playing stroke-play events.

"He asked me if he could stop, I told him he could but, at the same time, he thought: 'okay, I'll do this and gave the team momentum if I hole it' and he definitely did that.

"What a roar went up, it must have been 25 feet and a fantastic effort. That will give us momentum we need to carry forward into a very, very busy day tomorrow."

Saturday's action will begin with a putt another European opted not to take in the fading light. Luke Donald, faced with a six-footer to square his match with Padraig Harrington against U.S. rookies Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton, seemed all set to take it on before deciding to sleep on it.

"Tomorrow is going to be fresh greens and it was getting dark so I didn't feel comfortable taking it," Donald explained."

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)