30 September 2012

Inspired Europeans Pull Off Stunning Come-Back In 'The Miracle Of Medinah'

13 years ago a stunning US fight-back to win from 10-6 down in the tournament dubbed 'the Battle of Brookline' shocked the European side. This time it was the Europeans who replicated that famous day with a breath-taking come-back to retain the Ryder Cup after a 14.5 13.5 win, sealed by a Martin Kaymer knee-knocker for par on the 18th in the penultimate match. 

With the match tied at 13-13 and the last two matches level, it all came down to Kaymer v Stricker and Tiger Woods v Francesco Molinari. On the 17th the German holed a tense short putt for par to win the hole and take a one hole lead up the 18th. Kaymer's tee-shot found the fairway bunker and Stricker's ended up in position A on the short grass.

Both players found the green with their second shots but both faced  long birdie putts down the hill. 45-year-old Stricker completely mis-read his to leave about eight feet for par, but with the Ryder Cup on his shoulders Kaymer clearly felt the pressure as he raced it seven feet past. 

Despite putting poorly all week, and missing a vital putt on the last yesterday, Stricker showed nerves of steel to roll it in to the centre of the hole and pile the pressure on Kaymer. The 2010 USPGA champion took his time before stepping up and confidently striking his effort up-hill into the bottom of the cup, a stroke which resulted in a clenched-fists celebration. 

Jose Maria Olazabal named four of his strongest players to go out first and Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose all duly delivered the goods. Donald survived a late Bubba Watson come-back to prevail 2&1 before fellow country-men Rose and Poulter both grabbed wins on the final green in dramatic fashion. Poulter won his fourth point from four of the tournament with another magnificent iron shot on the last while Justin Rose showed amazing guts to birdie the last two holes and defeat Phil Mickelson, despite being one down with two to play.

After his match he was understandably delighted and paid tribute to the late great European Ryder Cup player Seve Ballesteros: "To dig myself out of that game is incredible. I felt like we needed that point. Phil Mickelson had the flag out at 17 and I thought he might make that chip but then I buried it in on top of him and that was one of the best feelings of my life. I've just had a look at my left sleeve [at the picture of Seve Ballesteros] and that is that sort of thing that man would have done. I think we can [win] and that's going to shake things up a bit."

World number one McIlroy was always half a step ahead of youngster Keegan Bradley and won 2&1. The winners of the last two USPGA championships played out a thrilling match but it was the Northern Irishman who had the class to come through and claim a price-less point. 

Scotsman Paul Lawrie proved his doubters wrong with a magnificent display against Fed-Ex Cup winner Brandt Snedeker to win 5&3 and bring Europe level at 10-10. He finished off the American in fitting style with a tap-in birdie after a pitch-perfect approach shot on 15. 

Dustin Johnson brushed aside a Nicolas Colsaerts surge to win 3&2, just minutes before Zach Johnson completed a 2&1 victory over an-out-of sorts Graeme McDowell. The 2010 Ryder Cup hero was not at his best and missed several putts before succumbing to the ever-reliable man from Iowa. Name-sake Dustin proved to be too strong in an exciting battle of the long-hitters against the spirited young Belgian. 

The away team took the lead for the first time in the competition after Sergio Garcia bounced back to beat a dejected Jim Furyk and Lee Westwood played excellently to mop up an off-colour Matt Kuchar. Sergio was slightly lucky to see off Furyk who missed several short to mid-range putts, including an eight footer on the last which would have squared the match. However big Swede Peter Hanson could not find a win on the final hole to square his match against Jason Dufner and the scene was set for the drama that followed. 

To rub salt into the Americans' wounds Europe did not just draw the competition, but went on to win it as Francesco Molinari secured a half with Tiger Woods on the final green when the 14-time major champion showed how far he has fallen with a missed straight, up-hill, three foot par putt. 

An amazing tournament will always be remembered for the final day and how the Europeans came back from the dead, but Saturday's four-balls will also surely never be forgotten. The way that Poulter birdied the last five holes yesterday will live long in the memory and that was the turning point that gave Europe some momentum going into the final day.

He was clearly as stunned as anyone else with the victory: "Ollie said to us at the start of the week, the Ryder Cup is what memories and stars are made of. Last night we were buzzing, we weren't 4-0 down, we were all square and we knew we had a chance. This is history. This has been unbelievable. I'll tell you what, I'm going to enjoy it with the best team I've ever seen and the best captain I've ever seen because this is special."


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  2. Oh dear, sorry about that. That is changed now :)

  3. Sorry, I thought that I'd already changed that