McIlroy played what he described as his best golf of the week, after giving his team an early scare when making his teeoff by barely 10 minutes due to a mix up over his starting time.
Firebrand Englishman Ian Poulter never led in his match until he won the par-three 17th with a par, before beating US Open champion Webb Simpson 2-up after conjuring a miraculous birdie from trees at the last.
Poulter, whose storming finish of five successive birdies earned a valuable point in Saturday’s fourballs to give Europe momentum heading into the final day, ended the week with a perfect 4-0-0 record.
The first US point on Sunday came when long-hitting Dustin Johnson beat Belgian Cup rookie Nicolas Colsaerts 3-and-2, but England’s Justin Rose then came from 1-down to Phil Mickelson after 16 holes to win 1-up with a birdie-birdie finish.
Rose drained a 35-footer at the tricky par-three 17th to square the match, then coolly sank a 12-footer at the 18th after Mickelson had over-hit the green with his approach.
“When it looked like I might be able to stop some of momentum on the board, they [Europe] were able to get another point,” Mickelson said. “That match, as early as it was, was a very pivotal one.”
Though Zach Johnson and Cup rookie Jason Dufner added further points for the US after never trailing in their matches against Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (2-and-1) and Swede Peter Hanson (2-up), the late momentum went Europe’s way.
“All went to plan. We were four ahead,” Love said. “The plan worked the first two days, it just didn’t work today.”