At the end of play Friday, it looked like America was going to use their home court advantage to take back the Ryder Cup. But the European team was able to stage a huge comeback to win by 14½ points to 13½ on Sunday. Europe was down 10-6 at the start of Sunday’s play; European captain Jose Maria Olazabal called upon his players to channel the spirit of the late Seve Ballesteros and take back the day.
Golf Digest reports, “[By] late Saturday, the U.S. led, 10-4. With 14 points available, needing only 4 to win, a certain confidence settled on the Americans — until, in Saturday’s last two four-ball matches, the Europeans produced unlikely victories. Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald defeated Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. Then came Ian Poulter, the fire-breathing Englishman, “a cross between Rod Stewart and Sid Vicious,” broadcaster Peter Jacobsen called him. Then came Ian Poulter with five straight birdies on the last five holes to beat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.”
Many, including Poulter himself, say that it was these wins that turned the game around. Poulter said, “It was amazing to see the atmosphere change in that team room,” he said. “The spirit, I mean, it just changed. … All week we’d been beaten quite clearly, and we just felt there was that little glimmer of hope.”
Halfway through Sunday, the Europeans led three and were all-square in seven. Paul Lawrie, defeated Brandt Snedeker, 5-and-3. Then Rory McIlroy defeated Keegan Bradley with five straight birdies, 2-and-1 — this after McIlroy had confused time zones and needed a state-trooper escort to reach Medinah 12 minutes before his tee time. You would never know it by the way he played, though. Next, Poulter defeated Webb Simpson, 2-up.
Justin Rose’s match against Phil Mickleson could have ended the European’s momentum. Almost losing, Rose holed a 12-foot par putt to halve the 16th and made a 35-foot birdie putt from the back of the 17th green to win the hole. He then closed out the match with a 12-foot birdie on the last hole.
Still, Europe’s victory wasn’t in the bag. 27-year-old German Martin Kaymer had to make a 6-foot par putt to win his match against Steve Stricker. If he missed, Tiger Woods was in the fairway behind him, ready to take the final point the Americans needed.
Woods missed a 3½-foot par putt on the 18th hole, and then conceded a par to Francesco Molinari of about that length to halve their match. That extra half-point made it a win for Europe, 14½-13½.
The only U.S. points came from Dustin Johnson, who went 3-0 in this Ryder Cup, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.
This is the first Ryder Cup since Seve Ballesteros died in May 2011 of complications from a brain tumor. Olazabal’s dedicated this match to his friend and countryman. He stitched a silhouette of Ballesteros on the European bags, and his players were dressed Sunday in the navy pants and white polo shirt that were Ballesteros’ trademark.
“Seve will always be present with this team,” Olazabal said. “He was a big factor for this event for the European side, and last night when we were having that meeting, I think the boys understood.”