September 30, 2012
Team Europe completed an impossible comeback on Sunday to beat the U.S. in the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Trailing 10-6, team Europe took advantage of American mistakes, and made very few of their own, en route to a 14 1/2-13 1/2 score, which was enough to retain the Cup that they won in 2010.
The ghost of Seve Ballesteros paid a visit to Medinah Golf Club on Sunday. Captain Jose Maria Olazabal and Team Europe paid tribute to Seve this week, displaying a silhouette of the late Spaniard on their golf bags. On Sunday, they all donned blue in honor of the former Ryder Cup captain. And the man who, as a player, turned the Euros’ fortunes around in the Ryder Cup, may have just had a hand in Europes comeback in 2012.
Nerves seemed to affect the U.S. team early. They sprayed the ball off the tee, missed greens, and found bunkers. The gallery’s raucous cheering during Bubba Watson’s opening tee shot went from a thrill to a parody, as Watson missed right. Watson would go on to lose the match, 2 and 1. In fact, team Europe won the first five matches of the day, giving them an early 11-10 lead.
When Jim Furyk lost his match to Sergio Garcia, it gave the Euros a late 13-12 lead. The 42-year old captain’s pick showed his age, as he stumbled to the finish. He not only missed a short putt that gave Garcia a 1UP win, he missed it in a way that would make you think he didn’t just deliberate over it for 10 minutes. Which he did. And it’s not like Garcia is still among the best golfers in the world. Golf is just a distraction for the international playboy these days.
Once again, impossible putts started falling in improbable situations. On the 17th, Phil Mickelson barely missed a chip-in, after which he low-fived his teammate from earlier in the week, Keegan Bradley. The miss seemed like a mere bump on the road to victory. Then Justin Rose, from the fringe on the far side of the green, rolled in a long putt to win the hole and square the match. Rose would go on to win the 18th and the match.
Another captain’s pick, Steve Stricker, who hadn’t won a match all week, failed to get up and down from just off the green on the 17th, and lost the hole to Martin Kaymer. Then he misread his putt on 18 – misread it as if he was looking at a different green entirely. He left it about 10 feet on the high side of the hole. He made the ensuing putt, but Martin Kaymer drained his 10-footer to win the Cup for the Euros.
The only other German to play in the Ryder Cup, Bernhard Langer, missed a putt of nearly the same length to lose the match for Europe in 1991. Kaymer became the hero for Europe in 2012.
Captain Davis Love III was brilliant in pairing his players for team play. He found just the right chemistry in nearly every group. His sratetgy on Sunday was a disaster. He sent out his hottest players early, and his coldest players, Stricker and Tiger Woods, at the end. Like Stricker, Woods hadn’t won a single match all week. It was yet another disappointing Ryder Cup for the 14-time major winner.
What does this mean for American golf? Not much. They rarely win the Ryder Cup anyway. If anything, the performances of players like Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, and Webb Simpson during team play bode well for the future. They’ll reel a little over this, but they’ll get over it once the regular tour starts up again.
For captain Olazabal, he was on the green when Justin Leonard holed an impossibly long putt back in 1999 at the Ryder Cup at Brookline. That year, it was Europe who led 10-6 going into Sunday, only to fall victim to an American comeback.
Here in 2012, Olazabal led his own team to an impossible victory. He certainly had help from a sloppy American team, but maybe he also had a little help from his old friend.