For Europe, this was the Miracle of Medinah. For America, it was the Collapse in Chicago. It was remarkable, it was unforgettable, it was historic and, for those trying to meet a deadline, it was quite terrifying as Europe won the Ryder Cup in jaw-dropping fashion last night.
Martin Kaymer, the German who had been so badly out of sorts in the build up to the event and had only played one match prior to yesterday's closing singles, emerged as the ultimate hero in a team packed with them. The late, great Seve Ballesteros, whose spirit had coursed through Jose Maria Olazabal's side, would have been, very, very proud.
Kaymer, with Clydebank's Craig Connolly on his bag, stood firm under unbearable tension and holed a six-footer for par on the 18th green of the second-last match against Steve Stricker to win by one hole and push Europe to the magical cup-retaining mark of 14 points. In the end, the score read Europe 14½ USA 13½, with Franceso Molinari stealing a half in the anchor match with Tiger Woods. It had been a comeback like no other.
The rousing run by the inspired Ian Poulter during Saturday's fourballs had a huge galvanising effect on European morale and gave the visitors a glimmer of hope heading into the singles at 10-6 down. With the hosts requiring just 4½ points from the 12 singles ties, it was an almighty task, akin to scaling Everest in a pair of baffies.
Team Europe were ready for the fight. There was just one small problem. Their prize fighter, Rory McIlroy, the world No.1 and the double major champion, was nowhere to be seen. "All of a sudden, we realised Rory wasn't here," said Olazabal. "My heart beat was quicker than expected."
Apparently, McIlroy was lolling about back at the hotel watching the pre-match build up on the television and was left confused by the fact that the tee-times of the singles matches were being listed in Eastern Daylight Time. The 23-year-old thought he had a leisurely 90 minutes to spare. In fact, he had about 30 minutes. The idiot box was set to make an idiot out of McIlroy.
With the aid of a police escort, McIlroy was driven to Medinah and arrived on site at 11.14am, 11 minutes before his battle with Keegan Bradley was due to commence. It was great to watch, though, and the bewildering situation must have had club golfers the world over empathising with the young Northern Irishman. After all, the breathless, last-gasp appearance is a regular feature of the game at our level isn't it?
Unlike us crude amateurs, however, there was no slack-jawed wheeze on to the tee, no flustered guddle in the bag for a glove and battered ball, no wincing warm up and certainly no ungainly clatter that would go skittering off into the wilds. McIlroy was calmness personified as he chuckled, shrugged his shoulders and nibbled away on an energy bar as he got on with the job in hand. "It was just like your average monthly medal," he said with a smile. Perhaps the Windy City's well-known soft rockers 'Chicago' could have serenaded him on to the tee with their old song 'Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?'
The soundtrack for a boisterous final day was already being played in the bleachers, though, as the colourful US fans, embracing the call of duty to create a 'Red Out' day, made their voices heard. Bubba Watson whipped the spectators into a frenzy and urged the bawling mob to continue to roar through the backswing but, by the end of an eventful top of the order tussle with Luke Donald, it was the Englishman who had cranked up the volume.
A hard-earned 2 & 1 win painted the first splash of blue on to the points board. Four up on the 14th, Donald missed a five-footer for eagle to close out the match, missed a birdie putt from a similar distance on 15 to lose the hole then watched on as Watson chipped in on 16 to reduce the lead to just two. A super bunker shot on 17 finally staved off Watson's menacing advances and the European assault was under way.
Paul Lawrie, back in the Ryder Cup fray for the first time in 13 years, took on the baton and a chip-in from 30 yards for birdie on the fourth got him up and running against Brandt Snedeker. A superb approach to five-feet on the next set up an eagle opportunity which he seized to go two-up and Lawrie was on his majestic way to a 5 & 3 win. "Kleenex required," said a visibly emotional Lawrie, whose thoughts must have turned to his late coach, friend and inspiration, Adam Hunter.
McIlroy, playing with all the carefree abandon of a man who had just pitched up for a hit about, bolstered the tally with a 2 & 1 defeat of Keegan Bradley before the pumped-up Poulter, who had been an absolute colossus all weekend, notched his fourth win from four ties as he won the 17th and 18th to beat Webb Simpson by two holes.
It was Poulter's countryman Justin Rose who really upped the ante with an astonishing turnaround against Phil Mickelson. He holed a huge putt for a half to stay one down on the 16th, drained a snaking effort for birdie to square the match on 17 and then holed a 10-footer for another three on the last amid roars of triumph to win by a hole. It was staggering, compelling stuff and the Europeans were rampant.
Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner stemmed the American bleeding but the hosts continued to haemorrhage points. Lee Westwood dumped Matt Kuchar while Sergio Garcia, one down with two to play against Jim Furyk, plundered another amazing point as his American rival crumbled with a bogey on 17 and a wretched three-putt on the 18th. The miracle was just about complete.
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