The Masters of Medinah: How Europe came from behind to retain the Ryder Cup
21:00 GMT, 1 October 2012
How do you win the Ryder Cup when you’re four points down and the Americans are so exultant the bookmakers have made them 33-1 on to win the trophy How do you beat the best player in the American team without so much as a single warm-up shot
How do you keep the will to win when the crowd has turned febrile and they’re making Hannibal Lecter noises at you as you’re trying to play a bunker shot Or hissing ‘Miss it! Miss it!’ when you’re standing over a putt to complete the Medinah miracle
Three of the classiest men in golf stood centre stage on Sunday and what stories Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer had to tell. It is part of Ryder Cup legend now that McIlroy beat Keegan Bradley after arriving at the course with minutes to spare.
High point (from left): Sergio Garcia, Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter, Nicolas Colsaerts, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson, Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer lift captain Jose Maria Olazabal aloft
If you had to pick one moment from the whole exhausting occasion and pronounce it the one when the tide shifted inexorably from red to blue, it would have to be Rose’s astonishing success over Phil Mickelson.
And then there was Kaymer, standing over a five-foot putt to retain the trophy, just as his idol Bernhard Langer did at Kiawah Island in 1991.
As Kaymer said, emphasising one particular word: ‘If I’m lucky enough to have grandchildren one day, this is the story that I will HAVE to tell.’
Nobody who saw Kaymer on Saturday morning could have believed he would be playing the role of hero the following afternoon. His captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, had told him he would be sitting out both matches after an awful showing the previous day and he was distraught.
Nerves of steel: Kaymer holes the winning putt on the 18th green
A major champion as recently as 2010, how could this happen If truth be told, the 27-year-old was feeling sorry for himself.
‘I fully respected the captain’s decision, but when you play badly on the Friday you want to show people what you can do the following day,’ he said. ‘I didn’t have that chance.’
He sought out Langer for advice. Trust him to put Kaymer right and spell out what team golf is all about.
‘My attitude wasn’t right, but it was after my chat with Bernhard,’ said Kaymer, smiling.
Rose had holed nothing in a Saturday fourballs pummelling and was feeling helpless with the team trailing by six points as he went off the course. He had been one of the few success stories in the defeat at Valhalla in 2008 and this Ryder Cup was unfolding in a similarly disappointing fashion.
Like his team-mates, though, Rose took inspiration from the heroics of his great mate Ian Poulter, who put in the best five holes of his career to win the anchor fourballs match with McIlroy. The deficit had been reduced to four overnight and there was at least a glimmer of hope.
Four matches in two days at a Ryder Cup is an awesome workload. Historically, only 25 per cent of those players who have done that go on to win their singles. But Rose still took his clubs back to his hotel and practised on the carpet in his room.
‘I was just hitting some putts and
thinking about things and something clicked to do with my grip pressure
that really paid off for me,’ he said.
Sunday morning dawned the same as so
many others for McIlroy when he is on the road. He picked up the phone
and talked to his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, who was competing in a
tennis tournament in Beijing. He went for a walk around the hotel to
kill time before retreating to his room on the 14th floor. McIlroy was
excited about the day and eager to find out how Americans like his
opponent Bradley, who had looked unbeatable with his partner Mickelson,
would fare on his own.
Imperious: McIlroy saw off the challenge of Bradley
Captain marvel: Olazabal holds aloft the Ryder Cup
Back in the lobby, a few groupie fans
were moaning they hadn’t seen him leave. Maggie Budzar, manning the
transportation desk for the PGA of America, made up a white lie that he
had left but noticed his name had not been crossed off the list. She
phoned the course to see if he was there but was told he was not. She
rang the European Tour to alert them.
After ignoring a couple of calls from
numbers he didn’t recognise, McIlroy eventually answered one from his
manager, Conor Ridge.
‘Are you at the course’ asked Conor.
‘No, I’m not,’ replied McIlroy.
‘You’re teeing off in 25 minutes.’
‘No, I’m not, it’s an hour and 25.’
‘You’re taking the mick, you’re at the golf course.’
‘No, I’m not.’
‘Rory, listen to me, you need to get there.’
So it was that McIlroy sprinted into the lobby and found the state trooper who might have been the American star of the final day. With the emergency light on and every speed limit broken, McIlroy sat in the patrol car on the edge of panic.
‘It would have been bad enough missing my tee-time playing for myself but letting down all my team-mates and the whole of Europe I’ve never been so worried in my life,’ he confessed.
Bradley, a nice guy under that scarily intense demeanour, was worried McIlroy had been involved in an accident or had received bad news from home. They shared a laugh when McIlroy explained the real story.
Late arrival: McIlroy is greeted by Bradley at the first tee
Then the chanting began. McIlroy liked the one on the first tee: ‘Rory where are you Your tee-time is right now.’
But he soon grew tired of people
shouting at him and pointing to their watches. ‘/10/01/article-2211371-15494B58000005DC-876_634x366.jpg” width=”634″ height=”366″ alt=”Domino effect: Donald won the first point of the day against Watson” class=”blkBorder” />
Domino effect: Donald won the first point of the day against Watson
The miracle according to Twitter…
‘No messing tonight!’
One of Europe’s star performers gets ready to party after tweeting a picture of the personalised bottles of champagne presented to the team
‘On the plane on the way back to Orlando, why does it feel like we just robbed a bank. Not sure how long it will to take to sink in.’
The man of the tournament feeling slightly quilty after Europe’s smash and grab
‘Wow!!!!!!! Did that just happen!!!! Unbelievable performance from all the boys today! Seve…..This one is for you!’
The world No 1 dedicates Europe’s win to the late, great Seve Ballesteros
‘Morning all, struggled sleeping after watching the Ryder cup last night, got to be the best sporting event on tv it never lets u down!’
The Everton star on a dramatic night
‘Wow! What a finish. Congrats to Europe! Seve would be proud.’
Bubba shows true dignity in defeat, while still managing to display his patriotic devotion
‘Greatest Sporting Year ever Tour De France, Olympics, Champions League, epic end to Premiership, Andy Murray, Ryder Cup, just to name a few.’
Owen reflects on a memorable year
Rose, however, felt great and was
playing as such. He took an early two-hole lead as Europe got the start
they wanted. But it all started to change around the turn. He started
losing holes and his rhythm.
The crowd could sense his discomfort.
At the 12th he was facing a difficult bunker shot and was just taking
the club back when the Hannibal Lecter noises – hard to describe if you
haven’t seen the film, but suffice to say, very unpleasant if you’re
trying to play a shot – disrupted his concentration. An appalled
Mickelson pointed out the perpetrator to a marshal.
‘Are we all settled now’ asked Rose of the crowd.
‘It was really a gut check at that point,’ he added. ‘After that it became a battle and a test of how badly I wanted to win.’
The Americans had been banging on about this being the start of a Bradley-McIlroy rivalry and the pair will unquestionably have more duels in the future. But a rivalry at the top of the world rankings There’s no chance. McIlroy is head and shoulders above anyone else in golf and probably half an upper torso ahead of the valiant Bradley.
So it was that class told and McIlroy followed Donald, the admirable Paul Lawrie and the incredible Poulter in putting points on the board.
The trouble was, Dustin Johnson was beating Nicolas Colsaerts and Mickelson was standing over an eight-foot putt for a birdie at the par-four 15th, with Rose plugged in the bunker in two. It looked for all the world that Rose would be two down with three to play, but a fabulous bunker shot rescued a par and Mickelson missed his short birdie.
‘I dodged a bullet right there, no question about it,’ said Rose.
Mickelson got over his disappointment by holing a great 12-foot putt for par at the 16th. Now Rose was staring over one from 10 feet for a half. He holed it and let out an exultant cry. ‘The first big putt I’d holed all week,’ he said.
Walking to the 17th tee, he was thinking to himself that in normal circumstances he would have taken a halved match in a heartbeat.
‘I knew there was nothing normal about
this,’ he said. ‘I knew I had to win my match. /10/01/article-2211371-1548F8A5000005DC-687_634x388.jpg” width=”634″ height=”388″ alt=”Thriller: Mickelson (right) and Rose played out a thrilling match” class=”blkBorder” />
Thriller: Mickelson (right) and Rose played out a thrilling match
Both players were just over the green at the 17th, with Mickelson to play first. The man with the imperious short game had the flag taken out and thought his chip was going in until it veered off at the death. Then it was Rose, standing over a putt from 35 feet.
‘How often do they go in Once every 25 tries But I knew I’d hit a good putt and it was a fantastic feeling when it went in,’ said Rose.
So to the 18th, where Mickelson was left with a short putt for par and Rose had a 15-foot birdie effort to complete an improbable victory.
‘My legs were shaking so hard I could hardly feel them, but that putt told me putting is about heart and that if you’re strong enough in the head, it will override how your body is feeling,’ said Rose.
Champagne moment: Justin Rose tweeted a picture of the individual bottles handed to each player
‘When it went in, I looked at the Seve logo on my sleeve and thought of him. I was overjoyed. I turned to my team-mates in ecstasy but then I saw Phil and I didn’t want to rub it in his face. So there was a moment of calm out of respect as I shook his hand, and then it was joy.’
Rose’s gloriously unlikely victory was the sort that had to happen for a European success. Another came when Sergio Garcia, who had been outplayed by Jim Furyk, was the beneficiary as the American lost his nerve. Lee Westwood showed his mental strength to put two awful days behind him and claim a point against Matt Kuchar.
The home side were under unbearable pressure now. For them, it all came down to the two men who they thought would prove their most dependable partnership. First up was Steve Stricker. If he didn’t win, it didn’t matter what Tiger Woods did in the bottom match.
Standing opposite him was Kaymer. In the end it came down to that five-foot putt and Kaymer could not help but think of the eerie symmetry as he surveyed it from all angles. He could not help but recall that the only other Ryder Cup player from Germany had found himself in exactly the same situation.
Magic moment: Kaymer is mobbed by his team-mates after sinking the winning putt
For just a moment, he thought: ‘Oh no, it can’t be another German missing this putt, can it’
There is a reason why some players win majors and others who are equally gifted fall short, and it comes down to moments like this. Kaymer’s putt never looked like finishing anywhere but the middle of the hole.
So that was the story of Medinah and the final day of the Ryder Cup on September 30, 2012. A day fit to compare with any in even the rich and dramatic history of this unrivalled contest.
When it was over, the recriminations for the Americans began. But this was more about the team who lived up to their mentor Seve Ballesteros’s maxim never to give in, rather than the side who didn’t get the job done.
This was about men like McIlroy, Rose and Kaymer and their wildly exciting journeys to scale the summit of their sport.
History makers: Europe celebrating completing the greatest ever Ryder Cup comeback