Europe completed one of the greatest comebacks in golfing history to snatch the Ryder Cup from the USA by 14.5-13.5 at Medinah in Chicago.
The European side trailed by 10-4 towards the end of the Saturday afternoon fourballs. But Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald held on to secure a point against Tiger Woods and Steve Striker before Ian Poulter rallied to secure an unlikely point with Rory McIlroy, against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. The Englishman, who has become the playing talisman of the European team, birdied the last five holes to sneak a one-up win.
Even with those late successes, the task facing the European side was a monumental one. 10-6 down, they needed to equal the US singles comeback of Brookline, 1999 if they were to win the Cup outright.
José María Olazábal rightly decided to put his form players out first in an effort to get some early points on the board. The strategy succeeded.
Luke Donald spearheaded the European assault. He played some supremely solid golf to nullify the brilliance of Bubba Watson. Although the American fought back towards the end of the contest, Donald ran out as 2&1 winner.
Ian Poulter went deep into his grit reserves to beat US Open champion Webb Simpson. Poulter won all four of his matches at Medinah and played an inspirational role in Europe’s comeback.
Rory McIlroy proved his status as World Number 1 with an excellent victory over the on-form Keegan Bradley, while Scotland’s Paul Lawrie produced an eagle and four birdies to see off putting wizard Brandt Snedeker by 5&3.
Perhaps the match of the day was between Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson. The Englishman started fast with two birdies in a row to go 2-up. But “Lefty” struck back winning the 4th and 5th. Rose eagled the 7th to move one ahead again but Mickelson countered with a two at the 8th. Another birdie for Rose at the 9th saw him lead by one at the turn.
Mickelson was still looking strong, however, and birdies at the 11th and 14th gave him a one-hole lead with just two to play. The American very nearly chipped in from behind the 17th green and was stone-dead for par. Rose was left with a snaking putt right across the green for birdie. He rolled it home to send the match up the last hole, all-square.
Mickelson missed the final green and chipped up to some six-feet. Rose had a difficult 12-foot birdie putt to take a surprise win. He sank it, punched the air and Europe had won the first five singles matches.
The Americans came back, securing points through Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson. They beat Nicolas Colsaerts and Graeme McDowell respectively.
But Lee Westwood steadied himself after looking off his game on Friday and Saturday to win 3&2 against Matt Kuchar. Sergio Garcia looked to be in trouble against Jim Furyk, one down with two to play. But the veteran Furyk crumbled on the last two, he bogeyed both the 17th and 18th holes to gift the Spaniard, and Europe, another point.
That put the Europeans 13-12 up with just three matches left on course. The score went to 13-13 when Peter Hanson lost out against Jason Dufner. So it was all down to Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari against the experienced American duo of Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods.
Kaymer was left out of Saturday’s play and he found himself in a real scrap with Stricker, who had also not played to his full potential in the opening rounds.
The match was all-square with two to play. Kaymer found the green at the 17th and played his approach putt up to some four feet of the hole. Stricker played a poor chip from the back and missed the putt coming back. Kaymer sent his home to move one-up.
On the last Kaymer had two putts to retain the Ryder Cup for Europe after Stricker failed to hole for a birdie. But the German put his first effort some six feet by. When Stricker holed for par, Kaymer had to make the putt to secure the Cup for Europe. Showing tremendous composure, he sent the ball straight and true into the heart of the cup.
The European players erupted in celebration and, when Francesco Molinari secured a half against Tiger Woods in the bottom game, the victory was complete. José María Olazábal’s men, inspired by Seve and playing in the great man’s colours, had won a fabulous victory: “the miracle of Medinah.”
“When I saw we had a chance coming down the stretch I was very emotional. The boys have done an unbelievable job. I have a few thoughts for my friend Seve and this one is for him,” Ollie said. “That’s why I’ve always said that this event is so special. Last night I told them I really believed we could do it and they just believed in themselves. That’s why we’re here as winners.”
US captain Davis Love III was gracious in defeat and was full of praise for his players who performed superbly throughout the week.
“I wouldn’t have done anything differently, they played great,” he said. “But when you lose a session as badly as that, it’s going to cost you.”