It is a simple word, but in sports it comes with massive implications.
But there is no other word that encapsulates the historic meltdown the American team experienced during the final day of the Ryder Cup.
Heading into the 12 singles matches, the U.S. lead of 10-6 looked insurmountable. Then it all came apart under the Chicago sun. One U.S. golfer – Webb Simpson – got the shanks. Two other major champions – Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk – lost their matches by dropping the final two holes. And Tiger Woods continued his grim play while battling for Sam Ryder’s cup by eking out a half a point – over all three days.
In a tournament where everything is amplified, everything is larger than life, the American team managed to lose to the Europeans in spectacular fashion. When Woods’ final putt slid by on the 18th hole to give the Euro team a one-point victory, it was simply the finale of a disastrous afternoon. In many ways it summed up the entire American loss.
“It all went to plan,” said U.S. team captain Davis Love III. “We were four ahead. The plan worked the first two days — it just didn’t work today.”
Now that’s an understatement.
Now I wasn’t in Chicago, but I’m pretty surprised neither the Toronto Star nor the Globe and Mail had a writer at Medinah for what is the biggest golf event of the year. Is that a comment on the state of golf journalism, interest in the game or the struggles of the newspaper business?
Either way, the National Post had Cam Cole (or should I say Cam Cole’s Vancouver copy got picked up in the National Post). Cole says it was the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history:
Bernhard Langer is still with us, but he can rest in peace, anyway. The demons from that six-foot putt he missed to lose the 1991 War on the Shore to the United States have been exorcized.
Pigs have flown, Hell has frozen over, the Cubs have won the World Series.
And if not, it felt that way Sunday, when Langer’s only German successor as a Ryder Cup player, Martin Kaymer, overcame the kind of pressure that makes eyeballs bleed and rolled a six-foot putt dead-centre into the 18th hole at Medinah Country Club to beat Steve Stricker 1-up and cap the greatest comeback in the 85-year history of the event.
From nowhere, with nothing in their body language or their golf games most of the weekend to indicate it was possible, Jose Maria Olazabal’s Europeans rallied from a overnight 10-6 deficit, won 8-1/2 of the 12 points available in Sunday’s singles matches and retained the Ryder Cup 14-1/2 to 13-1/2.
And there wasn’t a dry eye in the European mosh pit when it was over.
CHICAGO – European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal said Saturday night, “I still believe.”
His players showed their leader that they believed, too.
Olazabal’s European squad defied all odds Sunday at Medinah Country Club, equalling the the largest comeback in the history of the event — 1999 at Brookline by the Americans — to retain the Ryder Cup by a score of 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.
“It means a lot, but just not for me, for all of Europe,” Olazabal said, tears in his eyes as he stood by the 18th green, chants of Ole, Ole, Ole erupting around him.
Europe won the first five matches of the day with stalwarts Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie silencing the crowd early. Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer brought it home as the Euros pummeled the U.S. 8-3-1 on the day.
The final two matches were not expected to make much of a difference but it came down to those four players, none of whom previously had earned a single point for their squads.
Kaymer, the former world No. 1 who didn’t play at all on Saturday for the Europeans, closed out Steve Stricker in the second to last match after a solid fairway bunker shot and two putts to win 1-up and clinch the Cup.
“I am disappointed that I let 11 other players down,” Stricker said.
What did the Globe and Star do? They ran wire copy from the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson. Doug’s a great writer, but how does a paper separate itself by running wire copy? Why would I pay for that when I can read it anywhere online the night before I get my paper? Confounding.I fail to understand how papers expect to remain relevant by running yesterday’s news. As a reader I want perspective and educated opinion. Oh well.
Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup provided one signature moment after another. It was an epic sporting event as Europe overcame a four-point deficit heading into the final day’s matches to generate the biggest comeback on foreign soil in Ryder Cup history.
Europe’s captain Jose Maria Olazabal had told his team on Saturday night that they had to believe in themselves, and that, if they did, they could wipe out the big U.S. lead. His and his team’s hopes had been buoyed when Europe took the last two four-ball matches Saturday afternoon to stay within four points, and with an admittedly long chance to retain the Ryder Cup that it had won in Wales two years ago.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in not leaving my couch for the six hours of play during the singles matches. Twenty-one years ago I was sitting with fellow media behind the 18th green at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. as Bernhard Langer stood over a six-foot putt. Had he made the putt, Europe would have retained the Ryder Cup it had won two years before. A tie in the overall Ryder Cup allows the previous winner to retain the trophy.
Langer missed. He slumped. His face contorted. Now, 21 years later, Martin Kaymer, his countryman from Germany, and a golfer to whom Langer had offered advice during the competition, stood over a putt of the same length on the final green. If he could make the putt, Europe’s comeback would be complete because he would win his match over Steve Stricker and give his team the 14 points it needed overall to retain the Cup.