Magical comeback inspired by the spirit of Seve
CADDIE'S ROLE:Europe were possessed by the spirit and sense of team worth that this little Ryder Cup trophy evokes, writes COLIN BYRNE
HOW DIFFERENT Medinah is in the autumn compared to the summer. Apart from the beauty of the falling leaves, from a golfing perspective it was thoroughly enthralling.
I am not saying this as a Ryder Cup enthusiast – more as a golf appreciator.
The difference was simply the course set-up. Medinah Number Three was set up for scoring. The rookie star of Europe, Nicolas Colsaerts, indicated this with his 10-under par contribution in his fourball match victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker with his partner Lee Westwood.
The controversial tradition in the Ryder Cup that the home captain gets to choose how the course is presented ensured that Davis Love III was going to give his long-hitting team a real home advantage by shaving the rough.
In other words Tiger and Phil Mickelson could hit their tee shots all over Chicago and still have a shot to the green. They did, and they did.
The excitement of this form of team competition is that it is such a unique format of play. It is 18 holes of matchplay. With this format anything can happen and if you putt well, you will most likely win your match.
From a player’s perspective it is the one week when they have to think not only of themselves but also participate as one cog of the team machine. So when we all became aware that the world’s number one golfer had cut his arrival at the course very fine for his last day singles match there was both indignation and amusement. How could he have made such a mis-judgment? Well it is a wonder but with his three-under-par front-nine score seeing him two-up in his match he was quickly forgiven and slowly vindicated.
Who cares about routines and pre-round preparation. It’s how you perform under pressure that matters.
In an arena fuelled by passion and patriotism, given the remarkable turnaround in fortune for the trailing Europeans, I hope the state trooper who managed to get Rory to the course with minutes to spare before his tee-time was given an invite to Sunday night’s celebrations.
It seemed like the wishes of both captains for measured enthusiasm from the crowd in their partisan support was well respected. Despite acceptable crowd cajoling from players there appeared to be suitable decorum shown to all competitors.
What did us Europeans all really think as the Americans holed putt after putt in the fourballs and foursomes? I thought it was impossible to win in America without the golfing gods pulling hard for Europe on the greens. The gods were pulling for the home team it seemed until Sunday and the singles.
The Spirit of Seve took over and gripped the Europeans through their captain José Maria Olazabal. El Maestro’s empowering navy blue and white was the chosen attire for Europe in which to enter the final day of battle. Each new captain brings a new clarion call to his team and naturally the dynamic energy and enthusiasm of Severiano Ballesteros was always going to be José’s inspiration for victory.
Olazabal’s emotion in the opening ceremony when he evoked memories of his friend and Ryder Cup accomplice Seve, and his sensitivity when interviewed soon after victory, left us in no doubt about his feelings for his late friend.
Some may have rightly questioned his leadership tactics when he left Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald out of the Friday fourball sessions which ended in a 3 to 1 defeat in that session.
But nobody could doubt the Basque’s passion for an event that clearly defines him as a fearsome competitor. What happened in Medinah on Sunday was akin to the bull getting out of a bull ring alive after a gruesome fight. So great was the trailing margin on Saturday night that even with an ultra-inspired point delivered by the Ryder Cup talisman Poulter with five birdies in his final five holes, the whole world would have bet heavily against a European comeback.
I suppose managing a team of talented and inspired players is child’s play. You can make whatever decision you like, but if they decide to turn on their fast flowing taps of talent they will deliver for you.
For an extremely average putter Lee Westwood putted like a demon to deliver his point for his captain and team against Matt Kuchar. Justin Rose holed a seemingly impossible putt for a decisive win on 17th against Mickelson.
Of course the captain thought long and hard and sought council from his four vice-captains and naturally he listened to his players. I am sure he lost sleep and agonised over pairings and other details, but the fact was that the Europeans made halves and won holes like men possessed for him and their team.
They were possessed by the spirit and sense of team worth that this little Ryder Cup trophy evokes. They were inspired by memories of Seve and maybe simply driven by the desire to win and particularly to beat the Americans against all odds in their back yard.
The European victory in the 39th Ryder Cup was the most unlikely comeback of any team in golf history. When we reminisce in years to come about that beautiful autumn in Illinois we will recall how exciting it is to watch team matchplay on a course set up to entice great golfers to play exceptional golf under the most intense scrutiny.