And they did so without the help of Tiger Woods.
With over 40,000 raucous ' but respectful ' fans on hand at The Belfry, Europe stormed to a 3-1 advantage after the morning four-balls. Still leading by two, at 4-2, the U.S. picked up a point and a crucial half by David Toms and Phil Mickelson to narrow the deficit.
Toms and Mickelson were 3-down with four to play when they won 15, 16 and 17 against Scotlands Colin Montgomerie and Germanys Bernhard Langer. Langer missed the green after Montgomerie hit the fairway at 18. Mickelson missed the fairway, but Toms hit the green.
Unfortunately for the Americans, the pin was on the back of the massive two-tiered putting surface and Toms couldnt muscle the ball within 80 feet.
Ball on the green, Mickelson used a wedge to chip 12 feet past the hole, from where Toms was unable to convert the par save.
'I have to tell you that was a lot of guts to try to hit a shot like that and get it close for his partner, where most of the people would have probably putted it,' U.S. captain Curtis Strange said of Mickelson's chip shot. 'I'm not going to second guess Phil Mickelson. I never wondered why he was doing it.'
Montgomerie nearly chipped in for birdie, but his ball coasted 10 feet past the cup. Langer then missed on the low side.
Still not in pocket, Mickelson had to make a three-footer ' which he did ' for the half.
'The half point was huge...huge from the numbers part of it, but huge for our pysche,' said Strange. 'If we do well Sunday afternoon, we might look back at that match and say that might have been the one that turned it around.'
After a dismal performance in the morning session, the team of Scott Verplank and Hal Sutton came off the bench to give the Americans a lift. They defeated Dane Thomas Bjorn and Northern Irelands Darren Clarke, 2-and-1.
Verplank, playing in his first ever Cup match, and Sutton were 2-down through 12 holes, but won 13, 14, 16 and 17. All but 16 were won with pars.
'You talk about the half point earlier, for (Sutton) to come out and do that, you can't believe what it does for his and the team's psyche of confidence,' said Strange.
The victory was surprising considering Bjorn and Clarke had taken out world No. 1 Woods and Paul Azinger in an epic four-ball morning match.
The Europeans combined to shoot a better-ball 10-under 62, while the Americans shot 63.
Two-down with two to play, Woods made a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th to force a final hole. Azinger then stuffed his approach shot at 18 to a foot.
'That's why Paul Azinger was picked on this team to suck it up and hit a shot like he did on the last hole,' Strange said.
After conceding the birdie, Bjorn rolled home a 20-footer to halve the hole and win the match. He sprung from the ground and into Clarkes arms as the two celebrated the triumph.
Woods traded in Azinger for good friend Mark Calcavecchia in the afternoon. The two were all square through 10 holes with Spain's Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, until the Englishman made a 25-foot birdie putt at the 11th.
Woods had a chance to halve the hole, but missed a three-footer. He then missed another three-footer that would have halved the 12th. The two teams tied each of the next five holes, giving Westwood and Garcia a 2-and-1 win.
'I just missed two crucial putts on 11 and 12. It turned the entire momentum of the match on 11,' Woods said.
Said Strange of Woods: 'He doesn't feel real good right now, and that's good. He's disappointed, which is good. He probably feels as though he let the team down a bit, which is good. And it makes you come back hungrier the next day.'
With his pair of defeats Friday, Woods Ryder Cup record dropped to a paltry 3-8-1. Calcavecchia suffered his first loss in alternate shot; his record is now 4-1-0.
Westwood, because of his struggles the past two seasons, was a question mark in European captain Sam Torrances mind. But he more than proved himself Friday.
The 29-year-old from Worksop made three birdies in a four-hole stretch to help lead his team to a 4-and-3 victory over David Duval and Davis Love III in four-balls. He and Garcia were the only two players to earn two points on the first day.
'As I say, the boy has a lot of talent, and he proved it this week,' Torrance said of Westwood.
Veterans Montgomerie and Langer never trailed in their first match, a 4-and-3 victory over Scott Hoch and Jim Furyk, and were cruising in match No. 2 until the 15th hole.
'We're going in disappointed,' Montgomerie said, but added, 'We're 4 to 3 up. And I'm sure if you'd ask Sam at the start of the day, I'm sure he would have taken that. To lead after the first day is a very important thing.'
The Mickelson-Toms team was the only one of the Americans to win in four-balls.
Like Sutton and Verplank, Stewart Cink came off the sidelines to help his squad. He paired with Furyk and beat Irishmen Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, 3-and-2. Harrington was the only European player to compete in both Friday matches and fail to earn a point.
As promised, U.S. captain Curtis Strange played all 12 of his team members on Day 1. Torrance kept Swedes Jesper Parnevik and Pierre Fulke and Welshman Phillip Price on the bench.
Saturdays matches will consist of four foursomes (alternate shot) in the AM, and four four-balls (better-ball) in the PM. They will play 12 singles matches on Sunday. A team must win 14 points to win the Matches. Being the defending champions, the U.S. can retain the Cup by earning a 14-14 tie.
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches