September 30, 2012 by kujhawk
They had it in the bag.
There was no way they could lose this.
The USA Ryder Cup team was up 10-6 going into the final day of singles matches; they had been up 10-4 at one point on day two. They needed four and a half points to win the Cup from the Europeans. It seemed to be a certainty that at the end of the 12 singles matches Sunday, we would be talking about the stellar play of the Americans and the missed putts and mishaps by the Europeans.
Oh, how the tides turned at Medinah.
In what was tied for largest final day comeback in Ryder Cup history, team Europe weathered a rowdy American crowd in Chicago and blew past team USA in stunning fashion, retaining the Ryder cup with a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory. In 1999, team USA rallied to defeat team Europe after trailing 10-6 on the final day, but the Cup was being held in Brookline, Mass., so the Americans had the home field advantage.
“Last night, when we were having our team meeting, I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing,” said José María Olazábal, the European captain.
That belief grew as the day progressed, as the Europeans won the first five matches of the day. Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie and Rory McIlroy all left the course victorious. McIlroy, who arrived only 10 minutes before his tee time because of a mix-up with NBC posting Eastern times instead of Central times, started off slow, but roared to a victory over Ryder Cup rookie Keegan Bradley.
The only victories on the day for the Americans came from another rookie, Jason Dufner, and the two Johnsons on the American team, Dustin and Zach.
“We’re all kind of stunned,” American Captain Davis Love III told the New York Times. “We were playing so well. We just figured it didn’t matter how we sent them out there.”
You can call this an epic comeback or an epic collapse, and I prefer the latter. On the 17th and 18th holes, not a single American won a hole. In crunch time, where it really matters, the Americans could not step up and take what was clearly in their sights – a Ryder Cup title earned with superb golf played over the course of two days. But, on day three, the Americans just went away.
I don’t know if there was anything Love III could have done to change what happened Sunday. Phil Mickelson, who had been perfect the first two days pairing up with Bradley, blew a 1-up lead with two holes to play against Rose. Jim Furyk, whose summer has already been filled with disappointment after losing the US Open on the back nine, also blew a 1-up lead with two holes to play to Sergio Garcia.
But the biggest blow to the Americans came from Steve Stricker. Stricker was playing against German Martin Kaymer, a former world No-1 and major championship winner who was the first German to play on the European Ryder Cup team since Bernhard Langer in 1991. Stricker missed a par putt on the 17th hole to give Kaymer a 1-up lead, forcing Stricker to have to win the 18th for the Americans to have a chance to win the Cup.
But after a drive in the middle of the fairway, Stricker over-clubbed his approach and two-putted for a par, which was matched by Kaymer, sealing the win for the Europeans and leaving Tiger Woods’ match, the last of the day, insignificant.
For all of the struggles the United States has had in the Ryder Cup in recent years, this year seemed different. Ryder Cup rookies were playing like there was no pressure on them, and veterans like Mickelson were making putts and playing as solidly as they possibly could. But as so many times before, the Europeans had just enough to beat them and retain the Cup for the fifth time in the last six Ryder Cups.
As what has become the norm for the American team, it is another opportunity lost.
“I’m going to second-guess myself for a long time,” Love III, said. “Could have done a lot of things differently, but I’m proud of our team.”
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