Glory at Gleneagles for Europe
Jamie Donaldson won the 40th Ryder Cup for Europe with a stunning approach that finished so close to the 15th hole that Keegan Bradley, his opponent, didn't even make him putt it. It is Europe's eighth success in 10 attempts.
A jubilant Paul McGinley duly hoisted the Ryder Cup high above his head at Gleneagles but, at the end of it all, he and his European team knew that they had been in a scrap.
When he sits down and reflects on the past three days, Tom Watson will surely regret putting Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley out in the Friday foursomes at the expense of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed and must rue his decision not to play Mickelson at all on Saturday. In the end, they were the decisions that swayed this event the way of the Europeans.
Spieth and Graeme McDowell traded blows all day in the first match out. The American quickly established a three-hole advantage but McDowell won the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th to go one up. Incredibly, McDowell went two up with a birdie at the 15th and closed the match out with a brilliant par putt at the 17th.
There were tears in his eyes as he said: "I got off to a slow start. Jordan missed a putt to go four up and that was massive. It was the turning point for me. This is what we play for, this is what we practice for. I am so happy."
Behind him, Reed was two up on Henrik Stenson after 12 holes, while Rory McIlroy was putting Rickie Fowler to the sword, going five up after six holes with four birdies and an eagle. When they reached the 13th, McIlroy was four up with six to play.
He put the first point on the board for Europe when he beat Fowler 5&3. He was eight under par. "It has been incredible to play in front of these fans," McIlroy said. "To be honest, I was more up for this day than I was even for the last day of The Open. I really wanted to go out there and play well today. Now I just want to go out and cheer home the rest of the boys."
With McIlroy and McDowell's victories, Europe led 12-6 and needed two points to retain the cup.
There were fireworks in the match between Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose. It was no surprise that Rose took a while to get going after playing four games in two days, but there was little he could do against Mahan, who was four up after six thanks to four birdies. Did Rose have anything left in the tank? You bet he did. He birdied the seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th holes and went to the 12th all square.
Mahan must have been shellshocked but he birdied the 14th to go one up again.
Mickelson made early inroads on Stephen Gallacher but the Scot dug deep and had got the match back to all square by the 11th. Martin Kaymer took on Bubba Watson and won the third, fourth, fifth and sixth, lost the seventh but won the eighth and was four up at the turn.
The only match in which the Americans were dominating was the clash between Matt Kuchar and Thomas Bjorn. Kuchar was three up at the turn, with the help of an eagle two at the eighth hole.
Elsewhere, Jamie Donaldson was three up against an out of sorts Keegan Bradley, Sergio Garcia was one down to Jim Furyk, Ian Poulter was one up on Webb Simpson, Jimmy Walker was one up on Lee Westwood and Victor Dubuisson and Zach Johnson were all square.
In his match against Watson, Kaymer played a brilliant shot at the 13th from behind a bush to set up a birdie, but the American matched it. They halved the 14th, meaning Kaymer was dormie four.
The Americans got their first point on the board when Patrick Reed outlasted Henrik Stenson. The young American made mistakes, but eight birdies more than made up for that. At that stage it was 12-7.
Next to the final hole came Rose and Mahan, with the American one up and only requiring a half to win the match. Four years ago at Celtic Manor, Mahan fluffed a chip that effectively cost America the Ryder Cup. Incredibly, he hit his greenside chip clear across the green. He ended up with a bogey six and they finished all square.
Results were coming thick and fast now and Mickelson won three holes in succession to beat Gallacher, and Kuchar closed out Bjorn.
Kaymer then produced a moment of Ryder Cup when he drained a pitch at 16th for an eagle to beat Watson 4&2. "I played really well today and to chip it in like that was very, very special," Kaymer said. "The support is incredible. It gives you goosebumps walking down each fairway."
Rose, who finished with four points, said: "Being four down, I just kept working my tail off to get back into the match, and I was really proud that I was able to do so. I just want to thank all the fans for their incredible support."
So where was the winning point going to come from? Garcia was one down to Furyk, but Poulter and Simpson were all square and Donaldson was four up against Bradley. Westwood was three down to Walker and Dubuisson and Johnson all square.
The score was Europe 13.5 USA 9.5. Just half a point required.
Garcia pulled Furyk back to all square at the 15th and then went one up with an eagle at the 16th. When Bradley failed to birdie the short par four 14th, Donaldson was left with a putt from 10 feet to win the Ryder Cup for Europe, but just failed to hole it. Four up with four to play, he was guaranteed half a point and the trophy was certain to be retained.
Donaldson split the 15th fairway, but Bradley found the rough on the left. Advantage the Welshman. Donaldson's approach finished stone dead, and it didn't matter what Bradley did now, and he conceded hole, match and cup.
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