By Bob Verdi, PGATOUR.COM
MEDINAH, Ill. -- I went to the 2012 Ryder Cup, and the 1969 Cubs broke out. That might have little meaning in Spain or Germany or Great Britain or Italy, but to Chicago sports fans -- who comprised a significant segment of massive crowds at Medinah Country Club this festive week -- what Europe accomplished with its theatrical conquest Sunday feels like an old story. Local teams have a gruesome habit of inflicting heartbreak and disappointment, so America's epic retreat will be filed away in this precinct as a re-run of sorts, with foreign names in different uniforms swatting a smaller ball, but toward a familiar result.
The final was 14.5 to 13.5. It was closer than the score indicated, and closer than one could have imagined. The United States led 10-6 entering Sunday's singles, and 10-4 at one juncture late Saturday afternoon. The Europeans closed with two fourball triumphs, then thrashed the Americans in one-on-ones to retain the Cup. In 1969, the Cubs led by 9.5 games in mid-August and wound up eight games behind, a colossal collapse. Whether Europe's stirring comeback belongs in the same paragraph might be debated elsewhere, but not around here.
Question: What would have happened if an Illinois state trooper wasn't around to fast-forward Rory McIlroy from hotel to the course for his 11:25 match Sunday morning? Only a police escort made it possible, and after the Irish prodigy heard chants from deep throats in the stands at No. 1 -- "CEN-TRAL TIME ZONE!" -- he went out and polished off Keegan Bradley, America's caffeinated Ryder rookie, in the third of five front pairings swept by Europe. Hours later, as the victorious visitors celebrated near Medinah's giant flagpole, McIlroy wore a huge alarm clock around his neck. Winning is fun, but winning this way is historic.
When Ben Crenshaw's squad rallied from 10-6 to prevail in 1999, it was a home game. But Capt. Jose Maria Olazabal -- on the receiving end of Justin Leonard's fabled long distance delivery at Brookline -- had to organize a comeback on visiting soil before audiences that reached 40,000 for Tuesday's practice drills, then gradually grew, in size and fervor. If this was not the best Ryder Cup ever, it was the biggest. Huge crowds yielded fewer crowd control issues than you would expect, but let there be no doubt about rooting interests. These people latched onto the American golfers as if they were native sons.
Alas, as has often been the case, the Europeans finished better. Davis Love III, the U.S. captain, had the rough shaved to nothing, begetting birdies for his bombers. He didn't announce that his guys also would putt as though the white cups were giant bathtubs. And so it was, for two days. But on Sunday, the Europeans rolled. Martin Kaymer, a former world No. 1 deemed a weak link off recent form, sank the clincher against Steve Stricker at the last in the next-to-last pairing. A fellow German icon, Bernhard Langer, missed in 1991 when a make was all that Europe required to retain. Kaymer stroked the ball until it disappeared, then raised his arms. Jose Maria, eyes moistening, looked toward a blue sky. He saw Seve Ballesteros.
"He was with us all week," said Olazabal. So were Ian Poulter, a rock, and Justin Rose, whose short stick was a magic wand during a splendid duel with Phil Mickelson. Had Europe fallen, Olazabal might have been cross examined for the next two or three decades about his decision to sit Poulter for Friday's fourballs. And with all those vice captains and caddies on the roster, couldn't somebody have placed a phone call to McIlroy when it was obvious he was seriously tardy? But Olazabal oozes a spirit that is contagious, as was Crenshaw's in 1991.
When you are the United States captain, and you begin the competition by sitting out the defending Masters champion (Bubba Watson), U.S. Open champion (Webb Simpson) and PLAYERS champion (Matt Kuchar), you merely confirm what appeared evident as the team took shape -- the Americans possess depth. Consider some of the talented players whom Davis Love III did not select as wildcards. Love, however, could not foresee -- or survive -- Woods and Stricker combining for merely a half point.
As surely as Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas L. Friedman nailed it with his best-seller, "The World Is Flat," the golf landscape is one of globalization. Many European players are PGA TOUR members and live in the United States. Whereas their charter to America for the Ryder Cup once carried the entire team across the Atlantic Ocean, only three golfers flew to Chicago. Woods and Rose share the same coach, Canadian Sean Foley. Sergio Garcia's caddie, Wayne Richardson, works for CBS. Graeme McDowell went to college in Alabama.
Thus, the boundaries are not nearly as clear and defined as they once were, yet Ryder Cup passion and propriety sizzle, perhaps more intensely than ever as younger participants join the spectacle and catch the fever. That is good for golf, as good as what happened here Tuesday afternoon, roughly 66 hours before a meaningful ball went airborne. A celebrity exhibition featured, among others, Justin Timberlake and Michael Phelps, the latter a winner of 22 swimming medals at the Summer Games. Yet, the man who is arguably the greatest American Olympian in history gushed about how it was a "dream come true" to hang out with 24 of the world's finest golfers.
The sport has lost some participants in recent years, in part because of difficult economic times. But when Phelps walks inside the ropes at Medinah because there's no place he would rather be, and when he bumps into idol Michael Jordan, a staple this biennial happening and also Presidents Cups, one would surmise that golf needn't advertise how cool it is. Some of the best athletes in other endeavors will handle the promoting, free of charge. What occurred this week at Medinah, a pep rally on top of a costume party surrounding brilliant golfers, honored the game.
Europe: 14.5. United States: 13.5. Ultimate significance to the unique fabric of this sport: priceless.
RyderCup Final scores:
Miracle Or Meltdown? Yes.
It was a comeback for the ages, but did Europe win this Ryder Cup, or did the U.S. lose it? Our panel debates this, the decision to bench the Mickelson-Bradley pairing Saturday afternoon, key moments that turned the match, potential future captains and more.
Justin Rose (E) defeated Phil Mickelson (U.S.) 1-up
Ian Poulter (E) defeated Webb Simpson (U.S.) 2-up
Luke Donald (E) defeated Bubba Watson (U.S.) 2-and-1
Rory McIlroy (E) defeated Keegan Bradley (U.S.) 2-and-1
Dustin Johnson defeated Nicolas Colsaerts (E) 3-and-2
Paul Lawrie (E) defeated Brandt Snedeker (U.S.) 5-and-3
Zach Johnson (U.S.) defeated Graeme McDowell (E) 2-and-1
Lee Westwood (E) defeated Matt Kuchar (U.S.) 3-and-2
Sergio Garcia (E) defeated Jim Furyk (U.S.) 1-up
Justin Dufner (U.S.) defeated Peter Hanson (E) 2-up
Martin Kaymer (E) defeated Steve Stricker (U.S.) 1-up
Tiger Woods (U.S.) halved with Francesco Molinari (E)
Final score: Europe 14½, United States 13½
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Oct.1 2012 By Staff and wire reports
Europe made a staggering comeback Sunday to win the Ryder Cup, rallying from four points down in singles play in competition that wasn't determined until the final two pairs.
All that remained was the day's final pair, and Tiger Woods halved it with Italy's Francesco Molinari. As they walked off the course, Molinari joined his teammates in celebration of a 14½-13½ triumph.
"The colossal collapse in Chicago," NBC's Johnny Miller said on the air after Kaymer won his match.
he tournament at Medinah Country Club's No. 3 course near Chicago turned into a nail-biter as some of America's best and brightest succumbed to their competitors.
Steve Stricker lost the 17th hole and gave Kaymer a one-hole lead and a chance to seal victory for Europe. He did on the 18th hole.
Woods was left on the course with a meaningless final pairing against Molinari. It was a frustrating day for Woods, who missed several putts. It was just as grisly for the Americans, who couldn't hold leads against stubborn Europeans.
The Yanks didn't deliver on Sunday. The Europeans set the pace with winning the first five matches.
It was the Americans' inability to close out matches on the 17th and 18th holes that did them in. Several matches were square entering those holes. Europeans proved superior with victory on the line in nearly every case.
Phil Mickelson couldn't hold off Justin Rose, who birdied 18 to win their match. Sergio Garcia rallied to top Jim Furyk, who was left stunned when he lost.