Posted at October 1, 2012
Having finally absorbed the events at Medinah Country Club in Chicago yesterday, we take a look back at the Ryder Cup 2012 and an historic victory for team Europe!
The build up to the 39th Ryder Cup was filled with a mixture of emotion, hope and expectation from both sides. There was a large focus on the incredibly high calibre of players from both teams of twelve, on the hostility of a frenzied Chicago crowd and also on the passion involved - with this being the first Ryder Cup since the passing of the great Spaniard Seve Ballesteros and with his countryman José María Olazábal captaining team Europe. Eleven players from Team USA filled the top 17 places in the World Golf Rankings whilst Europe only had four within the same margin - couple this with the fact that the Medinah Country Club course had been especially adapted to suit the majority of their players and you can see why the Americans headed into this competition expecting no less than a victory.
The action kicked off early on Friday morning with Foursomes (alternate shots) in a tight session ending with the score at 2-2, before a surge from the American team in the afternoon Fourballs (better ball) lifted the Medinah crowd and a putting masterclass sent the home side 5-3 ahead. Europe's point came courtesy of Nicolas Colsaerts (paired with Lee Westwood in the final match), who shook off any nerves as the only European rookie to up-stage a certain Tiger Woods - a point which was both fantastic yet crucial at the same time.
With Saturday's back pages of the UK newspapers filled with praise for the efforts of the young Belgian, the pattern of play continued on from Friday afternoon and America once again dominated - taking the second Foursomes session 3-1 including a point from the outstanding pairing of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson who brushed past world numbers three and four (Donald & Westwood) with a 7&6 victory. The only European point for this session came from Ryder Cup experts Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, whilst there was little surprise at the decision of American Captain Davis Love III to leave out an under-performing Tiger Woods - 'rested' for the upcoming matches.
The European side looked a little deflated coming out for the afternoon's Fourballs, staring a disastrous result in the face at 8-4 down with just 16 points left to play for. America once again started strongly with well earned points from the first two matches, but a shift in momentum was on the horizon. World number two Tiger Woods and his inevitable partner Steve Stricker started poorly against the formidable opponents of Garcia & Donald and, despite a back nine surge similar to that of Friday afternoon, Woods once again failed to score any points and the score moved to 10-5.
Then came what proved to be a pivotal match of the 39th Ryder Cup. England's Ian Poulter is a notorious Ryder Cup competitor and matchplay expert, however he and World Number One Rory McIlroy were 2 down against the American pairing of Jason Dufner & Zach Johnson for large parts of their final Fourball. The Northern Irishman then shot an excellent birdie at the par three 13th hole which catalysed a tremendous run of five straight birdies for Ian Poulter - holing some massive putts along the way to a final hole victory and a vital whole point for team Europe.
The scoreboard read Team USA 10 - 6 Team Europe; the exact score from which America hauled themselves back from to take the Ryder Cup at the famous 'Battle of Brookline' in Massachusetts (1999) - where no less than ten of the players/captains on show at Medinah were involved. It would have been a privelege to have been a fly on the wall of the European locker room on Saturday evening, with a display of raw emotion and passion from Olazábal expected in an attempt to give his side one final push, one last moment of belief and inspiration - with everyone's thoughts on a truly remarkable man no longer with us.
Questions had been asked regarding the tactics of José María and the exclusion of Ian Poulter from Friday afternoon's matches - but the Sunday singles line-up looked to provide the best platform possible for Europe to mount any sort of comeback. Europe's big names and in-form players were sent out first to continue the momentum and, wearing Seve's traditional Sunday colours of navy trousers and white shirts with a Ballesteros logo on the sleeve, they did exactly what was required. A point for the flawless Luke Donald came first; a superb 5&3 victory for Scot Paul Lawrie second; then a comfortable victory for Rory McIlroy (who only showed up to the course with around 10 minutes to spare after a mix up with tee-off times and American time zones) swiftly followed by European hero Ian Poulter who completed his perfect scoring weekend. Dustin Johnson scored America's first point of the day against Colsaerts before Justin Rose snatched a point from the jaws of defeat against the experienced Phil Mickelson and the score had suddenly recovered to 11-11.
Belief, passion and desire filled the chests of an inspired team Europe and punches were thrown from both sides through Zach Johnson beating Graeme McDowell, an excellent 3&2 win for a resurgent Lee Westwood, a final nail-biting hole victory for Sergio Garcia before Jason Dufner made it 13-13 (despite a spirited Peter Hanson performance). Two matches were left on course - Martin Kaymer vs. Steve Stricker and Francesco Molinari vs. Tiger Woods, both of which were unbelievably tight and Europe required just one more point to take them to the magic 14 to retain the trophy.
Martin Kaymer had an unusually poor year on tour and there was even rumours of the German pulling out of the side in fear of bad form affecting the team's chances. His match with Stricker came down to the final hole and a three-putt from the American Ryder Cup veteran meant Kaymer - with Woods 1 up after 17 on the Italian - had to hole a testing eight foot putt to secure his point for team Europe. Kaymer's ball dived into the centre of the hole and euphoria from the travelling Europeans ensued, before a final miss from a shell-shocked and winless Tiger meant an outright victory for Europe was ensured, 14 ½ - 13 ½.
It was a miracle. The Miracle of Medinah. It was a day dubbed 'Seve Sunday' and this victory really was for Seve. Severiano played a major role in making the Ryder Cup what it is today and overwhelming emotion and joy poured out from every European in Chicago and back home too, especially during an interview with the honourable José María Olazábal (see below). Such a recovery in the Ryder Cup away from home and against such talented and charismatic players is simply incomprehensible, but it somehow happened. The American side and their captains played an integral role and we offer them huge congratulations for making the 39th Ryder Cup the spectacle that it was and such a fantastic display for the sport of golf in general. But, when such a splendid human being was watching over an inspired side such as Europe were, there was only ever going to be one outcome.