The Golf Channel broadcasters immediately called it "The Miracle at Medinah’’
No question Team Europe’s 14½ -13½ win over the United States at the 39th Ryder Cup will add to the club’s rich golf history. In fact, this chapter may go to the top of the list – ahead of the three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships played on the No. 3 course.
The final-day comeback put on by the Europeans will be much discussed for years to come. Was it "a miracle’’ by the Europeans or "a meltdown’’ by the Americans? Who knows, but in reality it was a bit of both. Trailing 10-6 after the two days of team matches, Team Europe needed a dominating performance in the 12 singles matches and got it. The U.S. came back from a similar deficit to win at Brookline in 1999, but that comeback was staged on home soil. Pulling it off as the visiting team trumps that.
"We put who we thought were our hot players up front, and who we thought were our steady players in back,’’ said U.S. Captain Davis Love III. "They came back and won. Give them credit. They played very, very well.’’
Luke Donald, in the rare position of being a hometown hero playing for the visiting team, started Europe’s comeback by whipping Bubba Watson 2 & 1. Wins by Ian Poulter, the individual star of this Ryder Cup with a 4-0-0 record; Rory McElroy, Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie followed. The first five matches went Europe’s way. Suddenly it was a dogfight.
The U.S. lead at the start of the day might have seemed insurmountable to some – but it obviously wasn’t.
"We just felt we had that tiny little chance,’’ said Poulter. "And do you know what? The boys made history.’’ And it was Poulter who did more than any other to make it happen. "I’m officially taking two years off. I’ll see you at the next one,’’ said Poulter. He was kidding, of course, at the moment there is no better Ryder Cup player than Poulter.
McIlroy won after arriving at the course only 10 minutes before his tee time, for some reason thinking the time on his cellphone meant he had an extra hour to get to the course. "I’ve never been so worried getting to the golf course before,’’ he said. "Luckily there was a state trooper who gave me an escort. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten here in time.’’
Though he had virtually no warm-up time, McIlroy was able to cool off Keegan Bradley, winning 2 and 1. Rose rolled in pressure putts on the last three holes – 12 feet to halve No. 16, 35 feet to win No. 17 and a 12-foot clincher for birdie at No. 18 – to beat Phil Mickelson. Lawrie, at 43, the oldest player on Europe’s roster, won decisively over Brandt Snedeker.
European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal said the comeback started at a team meeting after Saturday’s matches. That’s when he reminded his players about the spirit of the late Seve Ballesteros.
"Seve will always be present with this team,’’ said Olazabal. "He was a big factor for this event for the European side, and last night when we were having that meeting I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing. And I think they did.’’
It was anybody’s Ryder Cup going into the last two matches, Martin Kaymer vs. Steve Stricker and Francesco Molinari vs. Tiger Woods. Stricker and Woods were partners in the team matches and went 0-3-0. They were barely more productive in singles, Woods getting a half-point after the Ryder Cup was already assured of returning to Europe. He missed a three-foot par putt on the 18th that would have created a 14-14 draw, even though Europe would still have retained possession of the Ryder Cup. Six of the 12 singles matches went to the 18th, and the U.S. won only one (Jason Dufner).
Kaymer, the only player on either team to play just once in the team matches, took a 1-up lead when Stricker three-putted at No. 17. Stricker needed to win the 18th to keep U.S. hopes alive, but he couldn’t do it. Kaymer hit the green with his second shot from a fairway bunker. Both hit poor lag putts from long range, and Kaymer connected from six feet for his par after Stricker had made his from eight feet.
In 1991, to conclude a dramatic competition in which the U.S. rebounded from the same deficit that Europe was now facing, German golfer Bernhard Langer had a clinching putt from about the same distance that fellow countryman Martin Kayer was facing.
In ‘91 Langer missed his crucial putt, but Kaymer’s putt found the hole- keeping the Ryder Cup in Europe’s possession.
Thats when the celebration ERUPTED!
"It was a feeling I never had before,’’ said Kaymer. "On Friday I sat down with Bernhard and talked a little bit about the Ryder Cup because my attitude wasn’t the right one. But now I know how important the Ryder Cup is.’’
Europe has won the biennial competition seven of the last nine times.
"This is for all of Europe,’’ said Olazabal, who broke into tears when Kaymer’s last putt dropped. "The first two days nothing went our way. We struggled on the greens and (on Saturday) that changed a little. We started to make a few putts and the Americans just started to miss them.’’ That’s when the "Spirit of Seve’’ kicked in. The image of the late Seve Ballesteros, an inspirational player and captain of a winning European side in 1997, was emblazoned on the European golf bags.
"Seve was with us the whole day, and he helped us. We did this for him,’’ said fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia, one of Europe’s winners in singles.
"Ian’s hot streak at the end (on Saturday) gave them some confidence, and they built on that,’’ said Love. "Once those guys got the momentum, it was tough. We had a lot of matches get flipped late. A lot of our guys didn’t lose. They got beat.’’
"It was a huge comeback, and I’m really happy for these 12 wonderful men,’’ Olazabal said of his team.
"This is the most special and unique tournament we have, period,’’ said McIlroy. "To bring this group of guys together, to all play for the same cause, we win together, we lose together.
"But luckily, the last two Ryder Cups we’ve won together.’’