Ryder Cup 2012: Olazabal"s crew thrown overboard at Medinah"s own Tea Party

Olly's crew thrown overboard at Medinah's own Tea Party

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UPDATED:

00:32 GMT, 30 September 2012

The visiting supporters tramped the fairways of Medinah, singing their songs and flaunting their flags of blue. But their confidence was little more than bravado. For in this sun-dappled corner of America’s mid-West, the cream of European golf is facing a hell of a beating.

This being sport, miracles may never be discounted, but as they go into the singles with a 10-6 deficit, Europe’s chances of retaining the Ryder Cup lie somewhere between remote and negligible. And, despite some extraordinary late heroics from Ian Poulter, they licked their wounds and steeled themselves for the inquests ahead.

For the first two days of this Ryder Cup contest have seen a changing of the old order. Recent years have offered an unfolding story of Europe’s golfers, bristling with belief and committed to the cause, bringing to earth the best that the States can offer.

Team USA's Jim Furyk reacts after sinking his putt on the fourteenth hole

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts after a missed putt on the seventh hole

Face facts: At some stage, class had to tell

The team ethic was paramount and reputations meant nothing. Because Europe expected, and Europe was rarely denied.

Yet always there was a sense that
someday soon the Americans would rouse themselves, would start to
respect their own traditions.

A nation which has given us an entire
pantheon of golfing gods — from Jones to Hogan, Nicklaus to Woods —
could never be comfortable in the role of victim. Sooner than later,
sheer class was certain to raise its voice.

Forlorn figure: Tiger Woods has lost his three Ryder Cup matches

Forlorn figure: Tiger Woods has lost his three Ryder Cup matches

And here on the western outskirts of
Chicago, we have seen that transformation. Centre stage has been
forcefully occupied by young men with esoteric first names; Brandt and
Bubba, Keegan and Webb. And others have moved, perhaps temporarily,
towards the wings: Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and, or so it seemed
for most of two days, Tiger Woods, the greatest player of his era.

Time was when Woods could bend the game to his own will, but that task is now much harder.

American wunderkid: Keegan Bradley celebrates birdie on the ninth

American wunderkid: Keegan Bradley celebrates birdie on the ninth

‘Rested’ from the morning foursomes,
he spent much of the afternoon pouting, wincing and silently cursing his
own failings as he and Steve Stricker engaged with Sergio Garcia and
Luke Donald. The Europeans led from the first hole, expanded it to four
shots and protected it quite heroically. Because traces of genius still
cling to him, Woods discovered his pride and touch late in the day, when
a stunning burst of birdies on the back nine transformed the match and
turned back memory’s pages before Stricker missed a seven-footer at the
last to give Europe a deserved victory.

Yet the trials of Woods were no more
than a small distraction for the Americans. They raised their game,
holed their putts and generally handled themselves like a bunch of
professionals who understand their business. Blessed by a 5-3 lead at
the start of the day, they set off with the wind in their sails, and
they never truly allowed it to drop. ‘U-S-A, U-S-A!’, the patriotic din
rarely relented. There are times when its stridency can jar, but these
players had generated their own euphoria and reaped its rewards.

Rory McIlroy falls to his knees after missing a putt on the 18th

Agony: McIlroy falls to his knees after missing a putt on the 18th

Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari
were Europe’s first victims of the afternoon fourballs, effectively
blown away 5&4 by Watson and Webb Simpson. Never in genuine
contention, they seemed almost relieved to be put out of their misery.

Rory McIlroy and Poulter, whose
partnership smacked of something thrown together in desperation by the
European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, worked hard to match the earnest
consistency of Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, but the Americans led from
the opening hole, swept along by the momentum of the day until the
brilliance of the Europeans, especially a nerveless birdie putt by
Poulter gave them the lead at the 16th, and another on 17 protected it.
Ultimately, he rolled in a 12-foot putt to sink his fifth birdie in a
row and win the match.

saturday foresomes

Yet the embodiment of Europe’s
struggle was the man who had provided their most memorable moments on
the opening day. Nicolas Colsaerts spent Friday living the dream,
apparently incapable of making an error or missing a putt.

In the morning, reality came crashing
in. Infallibility was gone, incapability became the order of the day.
Partnered by Garcia in the foursomes, Colsaerts missed putts of every
range and variety, including a two-and-a-half footer on 13. His deepest
misfortune came when, one down and two to play against Dufner and
Johnson, he swatted his tee shot into the water on 17.

Time out: Luke Donald talks to basketball legend Michael Jordan

Time out: Luke Donald talks to basketball legend Michael Jordan

He looked like a man, in John
Arlott’s famous phrase, who sought the sanctuary of an empty hotel room,
and a six-chambered revolver as the match was surrendered. To his
enormous credit, he battled his misfortune through the long afternoon.
In company with Paul Lawrie, he went toe-to-toe with Dustin Johnson and
Matt Kuchar, despite quite outrageous luck with putts which flatly
refused to fall. But Colsaerts will emerge from his first Ryder Cup with
reputation enhanced.

The galleries revelled in it all yet
the composition of spectators told a tale of their own. Study the crowds
and you might easily conclude that America is populated exclusively by
white people, with the solitary exception of Michael Jordan. Yesterday,
they gave instinctive applause to the two ex-Presidents Bush as they
toured the course in a buggy. George Dubya seemed vaguely alarmed by the
rare compliment. The players they follow are cast in the same
God-fearing, Romney-voting mould. The overall impression is of the Tea
Party at play, and their delight in battering Europeans is
unmistakeable.

Nicolas Colsaerts of Europe and Sergio Garcia

Harsh rality: Nicolas Colsaerts and Sergio Garcia

They took distinct satisfaction from
the spectacle of Westwood and Donald losing to Mickelson and Bradley by
what the old-timers used to call a ‘dog licence’, 7&6. It was all
over by 10.15am, a defeat which will wound Westwood, hero of so many
Ryder Cup moments.

But when it was over, and despite
Europe’s efforts to salvage their reputation, it had been America’s
morning followed by America’s afternoon, with every omen pointing to an
all-American weekend.

Great view: A young fan watches th action

Great view: A young fan watches the action

They took distinct satisfaction from
the spectacle of Westwood and Donald losing to Mickelson and Bradley by
what the old-timers used to call a ‘dog licence’, 7&6. It was all
over by 10.15am, a defeat which will wound Westwood, hero of so many
Ryder Cup moments.

But when it was over, and despite
Europe’s efforts to salvage their reputation, it had been America’s
morning followed by America’s afternoon, with every omen pointing to an
all-American weekend.

In the pink: Ian Poulter on the first tee

In the pink: Ian Poulter on the first tee

Dynamic duo: Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson

Dynamic duo: Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson