September 30, 2012
After two days of intense golf competition, the American team had a massive 10-6 lead, leaving the Europeans needing a miracle to retain the trophy. It is not an impossible task – the Americans went into the final day in the 1999 Ryder Cup at the same score and came back to win the infamous Battle of Brookline. As holders of the Ryder Cup, the European team only needs 14 points to retain the trophy, while the Americans need 14 ½ to win outright.
The only way that Europe can win from this position is to take the early matches and hope the momentum continues throughout the team. The European captain, Jose Marie Olzabal, shuffled his players to try and find the combination that could get that, but his American counterpart adjusted his players to try and get the remaining points they need for victory.
Bubba Watson v Luke Donald
In the first singles match, the European former world number one took on the American long-bomber. The Englishman actually lives in the Chicago area now and went to Northwestern, so the fans had divided loyalties in this match!
Donald took the lead on the 2nd hole after Watson missed a putt for par and extended it to 2 holes on the 4th with a birdie. A further two holes to Donald on the 12th and 13th saw Donald go 4-up with 5 holes to play. A late fight-back by Watson saw him take the 15th and 16th, but it was too little too late and the first match went to Europe 2&1.
Ian Poulter v Webb Simpson
Very few players have the same motivation and performance levels in the Ryder Cup as Ian Poulter and the European captain had high hopes of Poulter beating the rookie Simpson, who was having a great tournament with two wins already.
Simpson got off to a storming start, taking both the 2nd and 4th holes to go 2-up. Over the next four holes, Poulter won three and Simpson one for the scores to level. Simpson re-took the lead on the 10th, but Poulter showed his Ryder Cup class to win the 12th to level before winning the last two holes to win by two.
Rory McIlroy v Keegan Bradley
The current world number one lined up against the American rookie with a 100% record so far in the Ryder Cup. McIlroy was delayed in traffic and it took a police escort to get him to the course in time for the tee-off. This was the worst possible preparation for such an important game for McIlroy, who was eating a breakfast bar just before the start.
Despite his late arrival, McIlroy took the 4th and 6th holes with birdies to go 2-up. Bradley pulled two back with birdies on the 8th and 10th, sandwiching McIlroy taking the 9th, also with a birdie. A McIlroy bogey on the 12th brought the scores level, but the rookie could not hold on and McIlroy took the 14th and 15th holes to win the match 2&1.
Justin Rose v Phil Mickelson
The fourth match was between the unbeaten American Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose, who was also having a successful tournament with two wins and two losses from four matches. These two previously played in the singles in 2008 when Rose took the match 3&2.
Rose has a great start with two birdies on the first two holes to go 2-up, but a Rose bogey on the 4th and a Mickelson birdie on the 5th put the scores all-square. Rose took the lead again by winning the 7th, 9th and 10th, but Mickelson took the 8th, 11th and 14th to be 1-up with four holes to play. The tie was not over though, and Rose hit two birdies on the last two holes to sneak the tie by one.
Phil Lawrie v Brandt Snedeker
American rookie Snedeker faced European veteran Lawrie in the singles with Europe in the ascendancy. The first three holes were all square, until Lawrie took the 4th with a birdie and 5th with an eagle. Lawrie also took the 9th to go 3 up before hitting a bogey on the 10th to drop a hole. The next three holes went to Lawrie before a Snedeker birdie pulled it back to 4up on the 14th. A final birdie on the 15th gave the match to Europe 5&4.
Nicolas Colsaerts v Dustin Johnson
The only European rookie lined up against the unbeaten Johnson with the tide already starting to turn away from Team USA. Johnson took the lead with an eagle on the first hole where Colsaerts could only manage a bogey. A Johnson double-bogey on the 4th leveled the scores before he hit a birdie on the 6th to retake the lead. Colsaets took the 9th hole to level the scores again before hitting two bogeys to gift his opponent a 2 up lead. The American repeated the favor on the next two holes, hitting two bogeys to level the scores before hitting three successive birdies to take the holes and win the match 3&2.
Graeme McDowell v Zach Johnson
Northern Irish golfer McDowell has not had the best tournament, only taking a single point before lining up against the American who had taken two points from his three matches. Johnson got off to the best possible start, when McDowell could only manage a bogey on the 1st hole. A birdie on the 3rd and a McDowell bogey on the 4th gave Johnson a 3 up lead. McDowell birdies on the 5th and 9th pulled the scores back, but his also hit a bogey on the 7th and Johnson ran out the 2&1 winner.
Sergio Garcia v Jim Furyk
Both Ryder Cup veterans know how to deal with the pressure of the final day singles, and Furyk had previously beaten Garcia in 1999. With the scores so tight between the teams, every hole was becoming more tense and Garcia showed his nerves with a wayward tee on the 1st hole that made the crowd scatter! He made up for this with a birdie on the 2nd to take the lead, but a bogey on the 3rd let Furyk back into the match. The scores were level until the 8th when Furyk hit a birdie to go 1 up. A Garcia eagle on the 10th leveled the scores before two Furyk birdies on the 12th and 14th and bogey on the 13th gave him a 1 up lead. With two holes to go, two Furyk bogeys first let the lead slip and then gave Garcia the victory by a single shot.
Peter Hanson v Jason Dufner
The Swede Hanson was playing against the American rookie Dufner, who was having a great tournament with two wins from his first three matches. Dufner showed his great form by taking the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 8th holes to go out 4 up. A Hanson birdie on the 10th followed by Dufner bogeys on the 11th and 12th reduced the lead to 1 up. Dufner hit birdies on the 13th and 15th around a Hanson birdie on the 14th to keep the lead at 2 up. A Dufner bogey on the 17th gave Hanson a chance, but Hanson bogeyed the 18th to give Dufner a 2 up victory.
Lee Westwood v Matt Kuchar
By this stage, the score board was starting to show more blue than red when Lee Westwood teed off against Matt Kuchar. Both players halved holes until Kuchar hit a bogey on the 4th to give Westwood the lead. A Westwood bogey on the 6th leveled the scores before another Kuchar bogey on the 9th gave Westwood the lead again. Kuchar hit a birdie on the 10th to level before Kuchar bogeys on the 12th and 13th let Westwood into a 2 up lead. A Westwood bogey on the 15th made the lead 3 up and the match ended 3&2 to Europe.
Martin Kaymer v Steve Strickler
Steve Strickler had played with Tiger Woods earlier in the competition and had lost all three matches and his German opponent had lost his only previous match. The pressure might have been on the players, but Strickler had a great start with a birdie on the 2nd to take an early lead. A Strickler mistake on the 6th followed by a Kaymer birdie on the 9th swung the lead the other way. Over the next few holes, Kaymer lost and retook the lead on three occasions before a Strickler bogey on the 17th gave the match to his European opponent. This was the point that gave Europe the 14 points needed to retain the Ryder Cup!
Francesco Molinari v Tiger Woods
Woods, like his playing partner Steve Strickler has had a terrible tournament and does not have the best career record in this prestigious tournament. In the last match of the tournament, Woods did not get off to the best start, dropping a shot on the 2nd and Molinari hit a birdie on the 3rd to go 2 up. Molinari bogeys on the 4th and 6th leveled the scores. Molinari took the lead back on the 10th after a birdie, but then hit two bogeys to give the lead back to Woods after 13 holes. Molinari hit another birdie on the 14th to level the scores. By the time of the last two holes, the fate of the tournament was known, and both players were playing for pride. Both players took hit a bogey on alternate holes to leave the match a tie and halve the point. After 28 matches of compelling golf, this was the first to end in a tie!
So after three days of high pressure golf in front of a partisan Chicago crowd, the team from Europe had done what had seemed impossible this morning and pulled off a shock victory. The American crowd and players were in shock as the Europeans celebrated with the traditional champagne toast.
It might not be the richest tournament in the world, but all the players are playing for national pride and as part of a team. Over the course of the weekend golf fans have seen some fantastic matches and a great comeback by the European team after it had looked like the Americans were going to win by a big margin. The only pity is that the next installment of the Ryder Cup is not until 2014.