The ten most significant moments of the Ryder Cup

By: Nick Bonfield | Mon 01 Oct 2012 | Comments

Captain’s picks:

The most significant moment of the Ryder Cup arguably took place before the start of play on Friday. Jose Maria Olazabal, in reality, only had two viable choices for captain’s picks, and he must consider himself extremely fortunate that was the case. Nicolas Colsaerts produced a stunning debut display in the Friday four balls to earn a point, preceding one of the most memorable performances in the Ryder Cup’s esteemed history by Ian Poulter. The two European wildcards earned five points, the same number recorded by their four American counterparts.

Nicolas Colsaerts – Friday four balls

Before the Ryder Cup started, Nicolas Colsaerts was an unknown entity to many. He had shown a glimmer of his potential at the U.S. Open, but most Americans were oblivious to who he was and what he was capable of. In his first Ryder Cup appearance, playing alongside Lee Westwood in the Friday four balls, he recorded eight birdies and an eagle - on a course he hadn’t previously played – to single-handedly defeat Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods. Had it not been for Colsaerts, the session would have been a whitewash, and the Europeans would have been staring down the barrel at 6-2 deficit after day one. A remarkable debut from the ‘Belgian Bomber’.

Webb Simpson – Saturday foursomes:

Europe entered the second day in a precarious position at 5-3. Things didn’t get any better in the Saturday foursomes, with the Americans’ momentum carrying over. The insatiable partnership of rookie Keegan Bradley and veteran Phil Mickelson demolished the world’s number three and four, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner continued their Friday form to beat Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, and Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker disposed of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy. In the first match of the session, the European duo of Justin Rose and Ian Poulter scraped to a 1up victory against Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. Had Simpson holed an eight-foot putt for a half on the 18th green, though, the whole dynamic of the contest would have changed, and Europe would have been 4.5 points behind with two sessions remaining.

Bradley and Mickelson left out

On the one hand you have to admire a man who sticks to rigidly to his philosophy and team ethos, but you also have to question Davis Love’s decision to leave out Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley for the Saturday four balls. The two players were unstoppable over the first three sessions, winning 4&3, 2&1 and 7&6, and looked simply unbeatable. Love said none of his team would play all five sessions, and whilst you understand guarding against fatigue, you have to believe Ryder Cup singles adrenaline would have been sufficient to overcome such a hurdle. If they had played on Saturday afternoon, the deficit could have been 11-5 heading into the singles.

Poulter - Saturday four balls:

The 39th Ryder Cup will be remembered predominantly for the most stirring of Sunday comebacks, but Ian Poulter’s performance in the Saturday four balls was the undoubted catalyst. The passionate Englishman birdied the last five holes to facilitate a 1up victory over Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner. World number one Rory McIlroy was a mere bystander as Poulter holed absolutely everything when all the pressure in the world was placed on his shoulders. Every member of the European team was standing behind the 18th green as Poulter presided over his putt. When it dropped, it galvanized the Europeans, with Poulter instilling a confidence and determination that had previously been lacking. Europe now believed. The eventual success and retention of the Ryder Cup hinged on that moment.

Luke Donald - singles

Luke Donald had been uncharacteristically out of form in the two foursomes matches, losing alongside Sergio Garcia on Friday before being comprehensively thumped 7&6 by Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson the following morning. The road to recovery, however, started on Saturday afternoon, his 64 contributing to a victory beside Garcia over Woods and Stricker. That round persuaded Olazabal to put him out first in the foursomes, and he simply had to deliver a point. Despite the unquestionable pressure, he rose to the occasion, and victory against Watson never really looked in doubt. The importance of winning the first point in singles - especially when you team is four points behind - is undisputable, and Donald stepped up when his continent needed him most.

Poulter - singles

Poulter was nowhere near his best in his singles match against Webb Simpson, but his heart, passion, determination and courage were enough to take him over the line. After his Saturday heroics, it was always going to be a tough task, especially against a player who made birdie after birdie en route to a 5&4 drubbing of Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari alongside Bubba Watson in Saturday’s four balls. Poulter, though, refused to be beaten, and recovered from being two down early to draw back to level after 16 holes with another vintage display of pressure putting. He went one up on the 17th after a fine tee shot applied the pressure, and hit a magical recovery from the trees on 18 to close out the contest. Poulter had made it four wins from four and ensured the first two singles matches were won by the Europeans.

Justin Rose – 17th – singles

Justin Rose isn’t renowned as one of the best putters in golf. In fact, from four-eight feet on the PGA Tour, he ranks 167th. On the 16th green, he stood over a putt of such length to avoid going dormi two, and stroked in confidently into the back of the cup. On the 17th, Mickelson made a solid three, and with Rose 35 feet away, a half was starting to look like the best possible outcome for the Englishman. Not to Rose. He hit his birdie putt with pace and watched with utter jubilation as it caught enough of the hole and toppled in. Mickelson was noticeably startled, and after his approach to the 18th flew the green, Rose hit to 12 feet and holed the subsequent putt to ensure a fourth-consecutive European point.

Jim Furky – 17th and 18th - singles

Sergio Garcia, by his own admission, did not play well at the Ryder Cup, and admitted he said after his singles match with Jim Furyk he was lucky to win. On the 16th green Furyk had a ten-footer to go two up with two to play, and as he strode towards the cup to pick his ball out, it contrived to lip out. It clearly affected him, and he pulled his tee shot on the par-3 17th into a bunker. He played a good shot to eight feet, but fell back to all square after his par attempt slipped agonisingly past the hole. He faced an almost identical putt on the 18th to avoid defeat, but he missed on the high side for a second consecutive hole to gift a match he never really looked like losing to Garcia. A win would have curtailed the European momentum, but the result only served to offer up more hope to those behind.

Kaymer and Stricker – singles

Most people thought the match between Martin Kaymer and Steve Stricker would be entirely irrelevant. How wrong they were. As it became apparent the result of their match would determine the outcome of the match, the German started to find his form. He holed a brilliant birdie putt on 14 before courageously holing from eight feet to secure a half on 16, but the most significant moment came on the 17th. Stricker hit a poor chip to leave himself seven feet for a par, a putt you would normally expect one of the best putters in the world to make. He struggled all week with the flat stick, though, and shoved his putt to the right. On the 18th hole, he looked down and out when Kaymer found the green in regulation, but the former world number one inexplicably rolled his effort eight feet by. Stricker holed a good par putt, and as news filtered through Woods had won the 17th, Kaymer knew a miss would mean a crushing defeat. In a complete opposite to Bernhard Langer in 1991, he made a positive stroke, and punched the air in elation after his putt fell straight into the middle of the hole.


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