Lee Westwood (Getty Images)
Great Britain & Ireland won six of the eight points available on day three of the Vivendi Seve Trophy to leave Continental Europe facing a mammoth task in Sunday’s singles.
Having won the last five stagings of the event – Continental Europe’s only win came in the inaugural event in 2000 – Paul McGinley’s side raced into an 11 ½-6 ½ lead with a day to go.
The holders will require only three points from the ten singles games to win the trophy.
“Obviously we are absolutely delighted in there,” said McGinley. “It's been a great day - things went really well for us.
“Our concentration levels were really good, and we were really up for it. We're really motivated and really concentrated and we are really focussed. We got the job done.
“I think my pairings fortunately worked well again, and we were fresh. We were a very fresh team and hopefully that's going to be the case tomorrow, too.”
Captain Jean Van De Velde must now try and rally his troops as he had on Thursday night – they lost the first day’s fourballs 4-1 before fighting back to within a point on day two.
Great Britain & Ireland dominated both sessions – Simon Dyson and Jamie Donaldson once again setting the tone at the top of the order with a 2 and 1 win over Nicolas Colsaerts and Matteo Manassero in the opening greensomes to take their record to two wins and a draw playing together.
Ian Poulter was joined by Ryder Cup and World Cup playing partner Ross Fisher in a 2 and 1 victory over Thomas Björn and Raphaël Jacquelin, while World Number Two Lee Westwood and Scott Jamieson ran out 4 and 3 winners over Spaniards Pablo Larrazábal and Miguel Angel Jiménez.
Continental Europe’s only score of the morning came when Swedes Peter Hanson and Alex Noren snatched a half from David Horsey and Darren Clarke on the final green – Ryder Cup star Hanson sinking a 20 foot birdie putt.
Both Captains opted for a complete reshuffle ahead of the afternoon foursomes and for a while the session looked to be going Europe’s way, Björn joining compatriot Anders Hansen to beat Fisher and Mark Foster 3 and 2.
Manassero and compatriot Francesco Molinari stole a half on the last when Robert Rock and Donaldson three-putted the final green in the top match, but Dyson chipped in at the 17th as he and Poulter beat Larrazábal and Noren 3 and 1.
“We both knew the point was important, and Matteo had to make his last putt to make the half point,” said Molinari, who faced Tiger Woods in the singles at last year’s Ryder Cup. “But I think we played well. We had lots of chances and just really never took them, so I think we deserve the half point.”
Westwood remained in unstoppable form as he and Horsey secured a 4 and 3 victory over Jacquelin and Colsaerts – Horsey chipping in at the 14th to all but end the contest.
“The last thing we will be is complacent, because I've played in teams where you've had a big lead and it evaporates quickly if you start getting down in the early games,” said Westwood, who after losing in the first day’s fourballs has won his next three matches without having to play the last three holes.
“We'll come out with the same intensity as today I'm sure and try to get on the board early.”
The final round singles have been moved forward due to the risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon, with the first match out at 08:35 local time and the final clash teeing off at 10:23.
Björn, a back-to-back winner in Scotland and Switzerland recently, takes on Westwood in the top game, with Hansen and Dyson out second.
Molinari faces Dyson in game three, Noren takes on Rock, while Open Champion Clarke and his former Ryder Cup partner Jiménez go head-to-head in an intriguing encounter.
They will be followed by big-hitting Colsaerts and Horsey, whose putter has been red hot all week, with Larrazábal taking on rookie Jamieson in the seventh match.
Manassero will be looking to prove his potential against former World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play winner Poulter, with Jacquelin playing Foster and Fisher and Hanson handed the responsibility of anchoring their respective teams.
“You’ve seen the draw, and I tried to put all of my players in form at the front,” said Van De Velde.
“If we don't put points on the board straightaway, I'm afraid the competition is going to be over.
“So Björn is out first, he's going to play Westwood, that's going to be a very tight game.
“I'm pretty sure that Thomas is going to be up for it. He's coming out of a win, and he's playing well, there's no doubt about it.
“Anders is a fearless competitor. Jiménez, Colsaerts, if we manage to get five points out of the first six games, then the game is on.
“I remember playing a Ryder Cup in 1999 and we were five ahead [Europe actually trailed by four] and we lost. So worse things have happened in sport, there's no doubt, and now it's about keeping the spirit up. If you take each individual player, they can win the game - it's just a matter of it happening.
“If you carry the burden of being so far behind into tomorrow morning, then it might be difficult. But if you start fresh, then you never know. Golf is a funny game.”