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The Miracle at Medinah remembered

By: Golf Shake | Fri 12 Sep 2014

Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements

THERE wasn't a Ryder Cup Sunday to compare with it. The Americans will argue that their comeback to win at Brookline in 1999 was on a par with what happened on the last Sunday in September 2012, but they were on home soil at Brookline. What Jose Maria Olazabal's European team achieved at Medinah was...well, it was The Miracle at Medinah.

After a dreadful first two days, Europe trailed 10-6. Traditionally, the USA win the singles, but lose the Ryder Cup because the Europeans have built up such a healthy lead in the Friday and Saturday foursomes and fourballs.

It is true that the singles encounters have become closer in recent times, but no European team had ever made up a four-point deficit. And apart from Ian Poulter, who played brilliantly, there was no indication that the holders were in the sort of form to be able to turn things around.

Don't forget that a huge number of European fans had travelled to the USA expecting another comfortable win.
At the start, everything went well for Davis Love III, the captain, and his team. Europe had struggled in the foursomes and fourballs on the Friday and Saturday. Poulter had his big staring eyes fitted and was holing putts from all over the place, but he had received little or no support.

There was no sign of what was to come when the Friday morning foursomes were shared. Rose and Poulter beat Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell beat Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker to give Europe two points, while Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson thrashed Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari and Phil Mickelson and a highly energised Keegan Bradley disposed of Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, supposedly one of Europe's top pairings.
As the teams prepared for the afternoon singles the match score stood at 2-2.

It was a bad afternoon for Jose Maria Olazabal's team. Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts beat Woods and Stricker on the 18th, but that was their only success. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar combined perfectly to beat Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose 3&2, Bradley and Mickelson eased past McIlroy and McDowell, and Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson thrashed Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson 5&4.

The USA led 5-3 overnight, and it was Davis Love who slept more easily of the two captains ahead of day two.

Things did not get much better for Europe on the first morning. Their only success came from Poulter and Rose, who beat Simpson and Watson. Furyk and Snedeker beat McIlroy and McDowell on the final green, Dufner and Zach Johnson beat Garcia and Colsaerts 2&1 and Mickelson and Bradley annihilated Donald and Westwood 7&6. At lunchtime on the second day, the USA led 8-4. Things were not looking good for the Europeans.

In the afternoon, Simpson and Watson beat Rose and Molinari 5&4 and Dustin Johnson and Kuchar beat Lawrie and Colsaerts on the final green. Garcia and Donald inflicted yet another defeat upon Stricker and Watson and Poulter produced a virtuoso performance to birdie five holes on the trot as he and McIlroy came back to beat Dufner and Zach Johnson.

But it looked like a hopeless task. The USA led 10-6 and had never lost from such a position. But Olazabal said he was sure the match was not over yet, and Love warned his players against complacency.

Sunday dawned, with the USA needing just 4.5 points from the 12 singles encounters. Europe had to get eight points to retain the trophy. It was a formality, surely?

Europe needed a fast start.

The order of play was Watson v Donald, Simpson v Poulter, Bradley v McIlroy, Mickelson v Rose, Snedeker v Lawrie, Dustin Johnson v Colsaerts, Zach Johnson v McDowell, Furyk v Garcia, Dufner v Hanson, Kuchar v Westwood, Stricker v Kaymer, Woods v Molinari.

Lawrie was never in trouble against an out-of-sorts Snedeker and beat him 5&3. Europe had pulled one back, but there was still a long way to go. Poulter, after his heroics during the opening two days, looked tired in his match with Simpson, but then the putts began to drop and a brilliant shot at the 17th put him one up. He won the last with a birdie, to give Europe another point. "It has been an unbelievable week," Poulter said. "I mean, last night we took a lot from those last two wins. It was amazing to see the atmosphere change in that team room."

Donald, the good little 'un, beat the big-hitting Watson 2&1, despite being outdriven by almost 100 yards on every par four and par five. McIlroy nearly didn't make it to the course in time for his match with Bradley, getting mixed up over time zones and arriving at Medinah with minutes to spare thanks to a police escort. The Northern Irishman then birdied four holes on the front nine to go two up. Bradley fought back, but when McIlroy birdied the 14th and 15th, the game was effectively up. He won 2&1.

Mickelson appeared to be steadying the ship for the USA - and then Rose's putter became hotter than a branding iron. He holed a 40-foot putt to win the 17th with a birdie, with Mickelson leading the applause, and then drained a 15-footer at the 18th to win his match by one hole.

Europe had won the first five singles matches. But it wasn't over yet. Not by long way.  The Johnson boys both won their matches, Dustin beating Colsaerts, Zach defeating McDowell, to keep the USA ahead by a single point. 12-11.

There were still five matches to be concluded. Garcia beat Furyk, who bogeyed the final two holes, but the USA hit straight back when Dufner disposed of Hanson. The home side still led by a point. And then, against all the odds, the scores were level as Westwood beat Kuchar 3&2.

The match between Kaymer and Stricker was not a classic in terms of the quality of the golf they played, but it was nip and tuck all the way. And when Stricker dropped a shot at the 17th, it left Kaymer one up coming to the last. In the end, he needed a par to win - his first putt raced six feet beyond the cup, but he showed nerves of steel to hole the putt and secure a dramatic victory.

"It's a feeling I never had before. On Friday I sat down with Bernhard [Langer] and talked to him a little bit about the Ryder Cup because my attitude wasn't the right one," Kaymer said. "But now, after that match today against Steve, I know how important the Ryder Cup became and is...Now I know how it feels to win a Ryder Cup."

Molinari halved the last match with Woods as Europe achieved their greatest fightback on American soil, leaving the final score 14.5-13.5 to Europe.

The European team uniform featured the famous Seve Ballesteros logo on their sleeves - he died the previous year, and Olazabal wanted to win the trophy for him. In the end, the captain was overcome with emotion, as were many of his team. If Seve was watching, he would have approved.

If you want any proof of just how much that win meant to Jose Maria Olazabal watch this video:



Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]

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