The man sitting next to me in the coffee shop could not stop talking about the Ryder Cup. “I feel as if I wasted three days of my life,” he said, lamenting the U.S. loss and trying to put into perspective the best competition in the event’s 39-match history. I suppose it boils down to one’s allegiance when classifying what happened on Sunday at Medinah—it was either the greatest collapse or the greatest comeback ever. Regardless, for the near future the search for culpability will trump that debate.
U.S. captain Davis Love III’s decision to sit Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson in the Saturday afternoon four-ball matches, which was the session that gave the Europeans hope, will be at the center of the debate, but by focusing on Davis’s decision, one is overlooking the reason for the comeback.
Ian Poulter perpetuated the memory of Seve Ballesteros when he birdied the final five holes in his Saturday four-ball to give him and partner Rory McIlroy a 1-up win over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. That victory turned the tide. Stretching into the Sunday singles, Poulter and McIlroy’s victory would be the second of seven consecutive wins for Europe.
Seve’s spirit was everywhere on the grounds at Medinah, as his silhouette adorned the Europeans’ golf bags, and his trademark blue was the chosen color for Sunday’s attire. But more than that, it was the play of Poulter that inspired memories of Ballesteros. Those memories brought European captain José María Olazábal to tears during the opening ceremony and then again late on Sunday as he remarkably watched one player after another channel the greatest Ryder Cupper of them all.