Europe retains Ryder Cup in wild comeback
MEDINAH, Ill.—Jose Maria Olazabal squeezed his eyes shut as they filled with tears—overwhelmed and overjoyed that the Ryder Cup still belongs to Europe.
His players wore the image of Seve Ballesteros on their sleeves and played their hearts out yesterday at Medinah, filling the scoreboard with European blue as they chipped away at a four-point deficit until completing a comeback even more remarkable than what the Americans did to them at Brookline back in 1999.
All they had was a message from their captain to “play your socks off,” and the spirit of another Spaniard whose name didn’t need to be mentioned in the closing ceremony.
“Seve, Seve, Seve,” the crowd chanted when Olazabal bowed his head to compose himself.
“I’m pretty sure he’s very happy where he is today,” Olazabal said.
The Americans simply were stunned.
Three times they came to the 17th hole with a chance to win a match—only for Europe to deliver the key shots that win the Ryder Cup.
Ian Poulter won the last two holes and so did Justin Rose, a birdie-birdie finish to beat Phil Mickelson.
Sergio Garcia won the last two holes with pars to beat Jim Furyk.
Even at the very end, this Ryder Cup could have gone either way until Martin Kaymer of Germany stepped forward to erase another bad memory. He stood over a six-foot par putt he needed to make to assure Europe would keep the trophy.
If he missed, Tiger Woods was in the fairway behind him, ready to take the final point the Americans needed.
Kaymer poured it in to beat Stricker—and the celebration was on.
Woods missed a three-and-a-half foot par putt on the 18th hole, then conceded a par to Francesco Molinari of about that length to halve their match.
That extra half-point made it a clear-cut win for Europe, 14.5-13.5. Woods and Stricker—the anchors in the lineup—didn’t win a single match at Medinah.
Poulter was the first to embrace Olazabal, which was only fitting.
It was Poulter who gave Europe hope Saturday evening when he made five-straight birdies to turn a loss into a win and swing momentum in Europe’s favour.
Poulter was up to his fist-pumping, eye-bulging tricks again on the final day, winning the last two holes in his match against U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.
And he had plenty of help. Europe’s top five players in the lineup all won, including Rory McIlroy, who was lucky to be playing.
McIlroy thought his match was at 12:25 p.m. (it was listed in Eastern time, not Central) and needed a police escort to get to the course with 10 minutes to spare.
Then he came up with key birdies to hand Keegan Bradley his first loss of the week.
Six of the 12 matches went to the 18th hole yesterday. The Americans won only one of them.
The Americans also rallied from a four-point deficit to win in 1999 at Brookline. This was different, though.
The Americans won big in those early matches. At Medinah, so many of them could have gone either way.
“Today was certainly not what we expect,” said U.S. captain Davis Love III.
Europe now has won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, and even more remarkable about this comeback is that they did it on the road.
Love became the first U.S. captain to sit every player at least once before Sunday, wanting them to be fresh for the decisive day.
Instead, the Americans faltered at the end—especially Furyk and Stricker, two of his captain’s picks.
“The plan worked the first two days,” Love said. “It just didn’t work today.”