Ryder Cup Countdown: The Miracle at Medinah
WAS there ever a more dramatic Ryder Cup than the one that was staged at Medinah in 2012? Jose Maria Olazabal’s European team went into the final day’s singles trailing 10-6, but it would have been so much worse had it not been for the heroics of Ian Poulter in the Saturday fourballs.
With just two matches still on the course, the USA led 10-4. Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald beat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker on the 18th green to reduce the deficit to 10-5. Poulter and Rory McIlroy had trailed Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson for most of their match, with the Americans two up after 12 holes. And then Poulter caught fire, holing putts from all over the place as he and McIlroy completed a remarkable fightback to win on the final green. The USA may have led, but Poulter’s astonishing performance gave Europe hope that they could pull off an unlikely and improbable victory.
Going into the 12 singles matches, the United States required only four-and-a-half points, but the Europeans secured eight and a half to clinch a historic 14½-13½ win.
Martin Kaymer sank a five-foot putt on the 18th green to get his team to the 14 points needed to retain the trophy. Then a Tiger Woods bogey on the final green of the final match gifted Jose Maria Olazabal's side overall victory.
The victorious European captain said: "To the 12 men of Europe, what you did out there was outstanding. All men die but not all men live and you made me feel alive again this week. I don't know how heaven feels, but it must be close to this."
It was a fitting tribute to the late Seve Ballesteros, who did so much to reinvigorate the competition and whose trademark navy blue and white the side wore on the final day in Chicago.
"Seve will always be present with this team," said fellow Spaniard Olazabal. "He was a big factor for this event, for the European side. Last night, when we were having a meeting, I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing. And I think they did."
Kaymer held his nerve in the penultimate singles match to beat Steve Stricker, having been given some simple guidance from Olazabal. He said: "Jose Maria told me, 'We need your point. I don't care how you do it, just deliver.' But I like those, it was straightforward. That is the way we Germans are. Fortunately, I could handle it and I made the last putt."
The German's putt was the high point of an afternoon of high drama.
Blows were traded down the stretch, one side grabbing the initiative before the other snatched it back, until it came down to the last two matches on the final two holes.
Both were all-square, with overall score locked at 13-13.
When Stricker three-putted the 17th, Kaymer had a one-hole lead. The German then struck a superb approach from a bunker on the 18th. He raced his first putt six feet beyond the hole but nervelessly drained the return to ensure that Europe couldn’t lose.
It was left to Italian Molinari to seal overall victory, when he halved his match with Woods. "When I knew I was coming out last, I was really happy because I knew the guys would do a great job and it would come down to the last matches," Molinari said. "Martin did a great job and I just fought as hard as I could to get that last point."
For the first time in three days, Europe had come charging out of the traps, Luke Donald taking an early two-hole lead over Bubba Watson.
With Justin Rose also two up on Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy holding off the previously unbeaten Keegan Bradley and Paul Lawrie taking early control against Brandt Snedeker, there was an entirely different atmosphere around the course than there had been on the first two one-sided days. Out first, Donald duly delivered, defeating Watson on the 17th.
McIlroy very nearly missed his tee time, requiring a police escort to get to the course just 10 minutes before he was due to tee off. His battle with Bradley was a classic, but he got his nose in front on the 14th and went two up on the 15th before closing out with a long putt on 17.
Poulter had been an inspiration all week and made it four wins out of four against Webb Simpson. Poulter had gone two down early and only went in front for the first time on par-three 17th when Simpson hit his tee-shot into the bunker left. He then pulled his iron approach to the 18th while Poulter fired his from out in the oak trees to 13 feet. When the American's desperate long putt sailed way past, Europe had their third point in three.
Fed-Ex Cup winner Snedeker was thrashed 5&3 by Lawrie.
Rose’s triumph over Mickelson was remarkable. One down on the 16th, he holed a putt to halve the hole and then produced a wonderful 30-footer on the 17th to go all square. Mickelson was the first to congratulate him, but then slashed his approach to 18th over the back and watched as Rose struck his to 15 feet and then holed the putt to win the match.
And the points just kept coming for Europe. Jim Furyk lost to Garcia. Then, after Zach Johnson held off Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood beat Matt Kuchar 3&2 and put Europe 13-12 up.
When Jason Dufner defeated Peter Hanson two up, the score was level again at 13-13 with just two matches, both all-square, left on the course.
None of the four players still in action - Kaymer, Stricker, Francesco Molinari and Woods - had won a single point between them all week.
Stricker three-putted the 17th and then went long with his approach at the 18th. With Woods going one up on Molinari on 17, Kaymer had two putts to retain the Ryder Cup for Europe. And he held his nerve to seal an extraordinary triumph.
With the packed home galleries silent, Woods then blew two putts from within eight feet to hand Molinari a half point and with it overall victory to the Europeans.
"The boys understood that believing was the most important thing and they did," said Olazabal.
US captain Davis Love admitted defeat was hard to take and compared it to the loss Europe suffered at Brookline in 1999. "We know what it feels like now," he said. "It's a little bit shocking. We were playing so well."
In the aftermath, The Wall Street Journal asked how "an extremely talented American Ryder Cup team could blow a final-day lead as large as any ever blown in 85 years of Ryder Cup history", while the Chicago Tribune described the defeat as "inexcusable” and USA Today centered its criticism on Woods, describing him calling him as a player the US "could not rely on" and "who at times appeared to be barely here”.
R McIlroy/G McDowell beat J Furyk/B Snedeker 1up
L Donald/S Garcia lost to P Mickelson/K Bradley 4&3
L Westwood/F Molinari lost to J Dufner/Z Johnson 3&2
I Poulter/J Rose beat S Stricker/T Woods 2&1
P Lawrie/P Hanson lost to B Watson/W Simpson 5&4
McIlroy/McDowell lost to Mickelson/Bradley 2&1
Rose/M Kaymer lost to D Johnson/M Kuchar 3&2
Westwood/N Colsaerts beat Woods/Stricker 1up
Europe 3 USA 5
Rose/Poulter beat Watson/Simspon 1up
Westwood/Donald lost to Bradley/Mickelson 7&6
Colsaerts/Garcia lost to Dufner/Z Johnson 2&1
McIlroy/McDowell lost to Furyk/Snedeker 1up
Colsaerts/Lawrie lost to D Johnson/Kuchar 1 down
Rose/Molinari lost to Watson/Simpson 5&4
Garcia/Donald beat Woods/Stricker 1up
Poulter/McIlroy beat Dufner/Z Johnson 1up
Europe 6 USA 10
Donald beat Watson 2&1
Poulter beat Simpson 2up
McIlroy beat Bradley 2&1
Rose beat Mickelson 1up
Lawrie beat Snedeker 5&3
Colsaerts lost to D Johnson 3&2
McDowell lost to Z Johnson 2&1
Garcia beat Furyk 1up
Hanson lost to Dufner 2 down
Westwood beat Kuchar 3&2
Kaymer beat Stricker 1up
Molinari halves with Woods
Europe 14.5 USA 13.5
Next: An extraordinary triumph in Paris...
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