October 1, 2012 in Sports

Europe buries U.S. on final day to retain Cup

Doug Ferguson Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

The European team poses with the Ryder Cup trophy after coming from way behind to win by a point in Medinah, Ill.
(Full-size photo)

MEDINAH, Ill. – Jose Maria Olazabal squeezed his eyes shut as they filled with tears, overjoyed that the Ryder Cup still belongs to Europe.

His players wore the image of Seve Ballesteros on their sleeves and played their hearts out Sunday at Medinah, filling the scoreboard with European blue as they chipped away at a four-point deficit until completing a comeback even more remarkable than what the Americans did to them at Brookline in 1999.

This one was on the road, where Europe didn’t have the advantage of a flag-waving crowd carrying them along. All they had was a message from their captain to “play your socks off,” and the spirit of another Spaniard whose name didn’t need to be mentioned in the closing ceremony.

“Seve, Seve, Seve,” the crowd chanted when Olazabal bowed his head to compose himself.

“I’m pretty sure he’s very happy where he is today,” Olazabal said.

The Americans were simply stunned.

Three times they came to the 17th hole with a chance to win a match, only for Europe to deliver the key shots that win the Ryder Cup. Ian Poulter won the last two holes, and so did Justin Rose, a birdie-birdie finish to beat Phil Mickelson. Sergio Garcia won the last two holes with pars to beat Jim Furyk.

Even at the very end, this Ryder Cup could have gone either way until Martin Kaymer of Germany stepped forward to erase another bad memory. He stood over a 6-foot par putt that he needed to make to assure Europe would keep the trophy. If he missed, Tiger Woods was in the fairway behind him, ready to take the final point the Americans needed.

Kaymer poured it in to beat Steve Stricker, and the celebration was on.

Olazabal hugged all 12 players, saving the longest embrace for Westwood, the only European who played on the 1997 team with Ballesteros as the captain.

Woods missed a 3 1/2-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 clear-cut win for Europe, 14 1/2-13 1/2. Woods and Stricker, the anchors in the lineup, didn’t win a single match at Medinah.

It was Ian Poulter who gave Europe hope Saturday when he made five straight birdies to turn a loss into a win and swing momentum in Europe’s favor. Poulter was up to his fist-pumping, eye-bulging tricks again on the final day, winning the last two holes in his match against U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

And he had plenty of help. Europe’s top five players in the lineup all won, including Rory McIlroy, who was lucky to be playing.

McIlroy thought his match was at 12:25 p.m. – it was listed in Eastern time, not Central – and needed a police escort to get to the course with 10 minutes to spare. Then, he came up with key birdies to hand Keegan Bradley his first loss of the week.

The biggest match might have belonged to Rose. He was on the verge of losing to Mickelson when Rose holed a 12-foot par putt to halve the 16th, made a 35-foot birdie putt from the back of the 17th green to win the hole, and then closed out Mickelson with a 12-foot birdie on the last hole.

Six of the 12 matches went to the 18th hole on Sunday. The Americans won only one of them.

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