Well, well, well. After a rampaging European side had raced into a 4-0 advantage during the morning session of the Ryder Cup here at the Marco Simone club, The Herald’s esteemed sports editor suggested to his golf correspondent that the lead was, “all the more impressive when you take into account how hard it is to build things in Rome in one day.” He’s a quick-witted old rascal. And I was quick to pinch his pearls of wisdom for this intro.

What a lead Europe built, eh? The whitewash of the foursomes was followed by the wonder of the fourballs as Luke Donald’s inspired side ended a captivating day 6 ½ - 1 ½ in front.

US hopes of retaining the little gold chalice they won so emphatically two years ago already lie in the kind of ruins you get scattered around the Palatine Hill. Any more of this and eager archaeologists will be digging around Zach Johnson’s team room.

It took until 2pm – six-and-a-half hours into the day’s play – before the US got ahead in any match. They didn’t actually win a single contest for the first time in history. It was flabbergasting stuff.

The five-point lead enjoyed by Europe at the close of play equals the biggest in Ryder Cup history and was last achieved at Oakland Hills in 2004. Europe went on to win by nine points. Here in 2023, they need just eight points from the 20 that are left to seize the cup back. There’s a long way to go, of course, but, my goodness, this was a heck of a start.

If the clean sweep in the morning was sizzling – the US won just 10 holes in the four matches - the fourballs fight was gripping.

The US, lolling on the ropes after that early battering, came out with more purpose in the afternoon and, at one stage, threatened a spirited salvage operation.

They led in all but one of the four matches as the ties moved towards their last knockings but Europe’s never-say-die spirit, epitomised by the combined heroics of Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Justin Rose, saw three pairings plunder half a point each amid extraordinary theatre on the 18th.

Rahm took centre stage with a virtuoso performance on a day when the Spaniard seemed to have more chip-ins than a deep fat fryer at pub closing time. For the record he performed the trick three times over the course of proceedings.

A brilliant 4&3 win with Tyrrell Hatton in the foursomes set the standard but the Masters champion upped the ante in the afternoon.

Playing with the fearless Danish rookie, Nicolai Hojgaard, against Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka, Rahm chipped in for an eagle on the 16th to square the tie. Scheffler punched back with a birdie on 17 to move the US one-up again but Rahm conjured another moment of magic by trundling in a raking eagle putt on the last to grab a half point.

“There was definitely a bit of Seve magic on that one,” said Rahm in reference to his late, great countryman who continues to inspire memorable Ryder Cup feats in a new generation. “Nicolai said to me, ‘what would Seve do? Do it for Seve’.”

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, left out in the morning, had eased into a two-hole lead through 13 against Hovland and Hatton but Spieth went completely off the boil on the run-in and Thomas missed a short one on the 16th as the match was squared. Step forward Hovland on the last with a curling 20-footer which dropped for a birdie to confirm a tied tussle.

With all that going on, Matt Fitzpatrick cantered to his first ever Ryder Cup point – four birdies and an eagle on his first six holes helped – as he partnered Rory McIlroy to a 5&3 romp against Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele.

It looked like the US would gain at least some consolation in the final match left on the course, thiugh, when Max Homa and Wyndham Clark moved two-up with two to play against Rose and Oban’s Robert MacIntyre.

Rose pulled it out of the fire, however. He won the 17th and, after Clark had made a hash of 18 and Homa had missed a birdie chance, Rose stood firm with a birdie putt of his own to nab another half point. Cue more giddy scenes.

“It’s a historic day, but we want it to be a historic week so the job is certainly not done,” said Donald.

The first day job was a good ‘un, though.