Europe roar back as Cup returns home


GOLF/RYDER CUP USA 13½, EUROPE 14½:OH, WHAT a rollercoaster ride this was. Heart-thumping, heart-stopping stuff. If the Americans expected a cakewalk here in this 39th edition of the Ryder Cup, they got a rude awakening. Europe – a dedication to the late Seve Ballesteros embroidered into their shirt sleeves – fought the good fight and dragged them into a bloodbath.

Finally, and almost inconceivably, Europe staged arguably the greatest comeback in the match’s history to retain the trophy after overcoming a four points deficit at the start of the day to win 14 ½ - 13 ½. But, boy, this was some dogfight!

Deliverance came the hard way for Europe, as José Maria Olazabals men stole all the traits of feisty terriers and stubbornly and doggedly refused to accept their fate. In the end, they left the US team shell-shocked with Martin Kaymer – the German whose game was so suspect that he’d only played once before the singles – claiming the one hole win over Steve Stricker that, somehow, brought about the comebacks of all comebacks.

It guaranteed Europe got to 14 points and Francesco Molinari’s halved match with Woods confirmed the most incredible win.

In evoking the spirit of Seve, Europe – with all the team’s big guns sent out in the top order in a quest to stage the greatest final day fightback since the USA overcame a similar 10-6 deficit at Brookline in 1999 – were like men possessed. Ian Poulter’s contribution on Saturday had been bottled and soaked into his team mates.

If Rory McIlroy’s plight in misinterpreting his scheduled tee-time led to good-natured banter on his arrival, with just minutes to spare for his singles with Keegan Bradley, and jokes of “Where’s your watch?” and such like, that atmosphere changed as Europe mounted a comeback for the ages. To such an extent that Justin Rose was heckled and barracked in the midst of making a recovery from a bunker shot on the 12th..

And, yet, it was the on-course deeds of the European players that did most to silence the raucous home crowd who could barely believe or fathom what was happening in front of their very eyes. Europe, the underdogs, posted one win after another from the top order.

Like a strategically-played game of dominoes, Europe’s top men – led by Luke Donald who inflicted a 2 and 1 win over Bubba Watson in the top match – created a form of mayhem in the US ranks. One by one, Europe cut into the deficit. Luke Donald. Ian Poulter. Rory McIlroy. Justin Rose. Paul Lawrie.

The top five singles were captured by Europe, with only Dustin Johnson’s win over Nicolas Colsaerts in the sixth singles stopping the rot as the match developed into one of the most tense played on American soil. In Brookline, the USA had staged the fightback; here, though, on home turf, they were the ones who were the fall guys.

On a beautiful day, with early cloud cover clearing to leave blue skies, the final series of 12 singles offered the defining play of this biennial match. In such circumstances, as Sam Torrance once observed, heroes emerge from the shadows and this was typified by Rose.

Seemingly dead and buried with two holes to play and two down to Mickelson, Rose chipped in for a most unlikely birdie on the Par 3 17th from 40 feet and then rolled in a 12-footer for a winning birdie on the 18th.

The drama was relentless, as one hero after another emerged for Olazabal and one match after another swung Europe’s way. Someone had turned on the tap and it developed into a tsunami which swept the Americans aside. The momentum from the top matches was brought into the middle order.

Although Zach Johnson secured a 2 and 1 win over an out of sorts Graeme McDowell, the hero of two years ago, there was a late collapse from US ‘wild card’ Jim Furyk which let Sergio Garcia in.

One up with two holes to play, Furyk – whose fragile putting was evident in letting the US Open slip from his grasp earlier this season and who also fell at the death in his bid to win the Bridgestone Invitational – bogeyed the 17th and, then, missed a eight-footer to save par on the 18th. He slumped, hands in head, as Garcia almost apologetically went to shake hands.

That win for Garcia – combined with a simultaneous 3 and 2 win for Lee Westwood over Matt Kuchar – moved Europe 13-12 ahead. Unbelievable as it seemed, Europe, finding form that had deserted them for the first two days, knocked aside all preconceptions about the outcome, with Jason Dufner, probably the calmest man in Chicago, winning the 18th in his match with Peter Hanson to even matters up at 13-apiece.

After three days of golfing combat, it all came down to four players who could hardly have envisaged they would be put into the spotlight. Not one of them had managed to earn a point in two days of foursomes and fourballs. But Kaymer, when the moment came, delivered big time and showed nerves of steel to sink a five footer on the 18th that won the match and retained the trophy for Europe.

Olazabal went up to Kaymer on the 16th tee and said, “we need this point to win the Ryder Cup.” And Kaymer delivered with a coolness that had been missing for much of his season.

Woods missed a short putt on the 18th and conceded a short putt to Molinari which gave Europe the most unlikely win.

State trooper to McIlroy's rescue

RORY McILROY missed a FedEx Cup delivery for $10 million last week. Yesterday, he got to make an important delivery of his own.

The world number one – in danger of missing his tee time – got a lift in the front seat of a cop car with lights flashing and siren blaring to just about make his tee-time for a singles match with US stalwart Keegan Bradley and record a 2 and 1 win.

McIlroy’s close shave for his scheduled tee-time came after misunderstanding the tee time texted to him. The 23-year-old Ulsterman was casually making his way out of the hotel to go to the golf course when alerted he was in danger of missing his scheduled start, which would have led to a disqualification.

European Tour officials and his caddie JP Fitzgerald, who was at the course, had been frantically trying to make contact with McIlroy when it transpired he wasn’t at the club.

“I’ve never been so worried driving to the golf course before. Luckily there was a state trooper outside who gave me the escort (to the club). If it wasn’t for him. I wouldn’t have got here in time,” said McIlroy who only had time to race to the locker-room and put on his shoes before racing to the tee.

With no time for a warm-up, McIlroy was straight into the action. “I’m pretty loose anyway. It was probably a really good thing that I didn’t have to think about it too much,” said McIlroy, who turned a two-hole deficit through nine holes into a win that fed back down through the singles.

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