In a Nutshell: Stirring the ghosts of Brookline, Europe rallied from a 10–6 deficit to take 81⁄2 points in singles and win the Ryder Cup for the seventh time in the last nine meetings.
Most-Inspired Pairing: European captain José María Olazábal’s sending out Paul Lawrie fifth. Ollie front-loaded with big guns Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, and each won his match, which was a necessity. Lawrie, who in his only other Ryder Cup appearance was on the other side of a historic comeback, at Brookline in 1999, was a surprise to come next; he was winless in team play while looking 103, not 43. But he holed a 30-yard chip on the 4th hole to announce his intentions, was six under without a bogey through 15 holes and never trailed against the Eleven Million Dollar Man, Brandt Snedeker.
Worst Pairing: U.S. captain Davis Love III’s sending out Steve Stricker 11th. The gentle Midwesterner was shaky all week, particularly with his money-maker, the putter. The only way his match was going to count was if Europe was mounting a huge rally, so why add that burden to a captain’s pick who was already 0–3? Stricker crumbled under the pressure, bogeying three of the last eight holes and losing 1 up to Martin Kaymer in the match that guaranteed Europe would retain the Cup.
Fashion Do: Maybe the U.S. should have embroidered Seve Ballesteros’s silhouette on their sleeves too.
Tragic Figure: Jim Furyk. The signature image from this U.S. defeat will be the 42-year-old warrior bent over in agony on the final green, after having his heart broken by an old foil, Sergio García. Furyk has suffered a series of high-profile crunch-time failures this season, but he was on his game and 1 up through 16 holes in the crucial eighth match. Then Furyk made two bogeys coming in to let García steal a point, the denouement a missed 12-footer that left him in anguish.
Breakout Performance: Kaymer. Now this looked like the guy who won the 2010 PGA Championship and made it to No. 1 in the world. Kaymer controlled his ball beautifully and made a handful of game-changing putts, delivering down the stretch under the most extreme pressure. Said Kaymer, “On 16, Ollie came up to me and said, ‘We need this point. We have to have it.’ I already knew how much it meant. I was already nervous, and that didn’t really help.” That Kaymer came through is all the more impressive because he had been benched for both sessions the day before. So was Peter Hanson, who said, “We were both shattered, but Martin very quickly put it behind him. He had a great attitude about it, definitely better than me. And I think that helped him today.”
Best Shot: Rory from way left of the 11th green. Short-sided, he bumped a low-spinning pitch into the bank, killing it on the slope and letting it trickle to within five feet. Then he buried the par putt for the best up and down of the week, retaining a 1-up lead over the previously unbeatable Keegan Bradley. McIlroy’s 2-and-1 victory—after not getting to warm up because he was confused about his tee time—will only burnish his legend.
Worst Shot: Phil Mickelson’s three-quarter eight-iron from 161 yards on the 18th hole. He misjudged the wind, and his adrenaline, jacking his approach shot over the green, which was dead.
Best Putt: Mickelson was all square playing 18 only because of Rose’s closing heroics in what he called a “ding-dong match.” Rose got up and down on 15 from a plugged lie in the bunker and then topped Mickelson’s mid-range par putt on 16 with one of his own. On 17, after Phil missed chipping in for birdie by thismuch, Rose enjoyed this Cup’s Justin Leonard moment, burying a 40-footer to win the hole and square the match. His closed-fist he-man pose in celebration was an instant classic.
Worst Putt: Stricker was brought in to make putts. That didn’t work out so well. All square with Kaymer playing the par-3 17th, Stricker was just off the back of the putting surface and had plenty of green for his straightforward chip. He clanked it eight feet by. Straight uphill, it was the kind of putt Stricker has made a million times. If he holes the putt, who knows if Kaymer would have made his own subsequent par attempt, a downhill five-footer? But Stricker put a feeble stroke on it and missed, Kaymer drilled his, and this Ryder Cup tipped inexorably toward Europe.
Act of Gamesmanship: There were a few at the chaotic end to the day’s last match. Tiger was 1 up on the Italian stallion Francesco Molinari on the 18th fairway when Kaymer closed out Stricker up ahead, making the score 14–13 and guaranteeing Europe would keep Samuel Ryder’s little gold trophy. European players, caddies and wives swarmed Kaymer and whooped it up on the green, forcing Woods and Molinari to wait at least five minutes for it to clear. This wasn’t as bad as the infamous stampede at Brookline, but the celebration lasted way too long. Molinari didn’t want a tie, he wanted an outright European victory. To Tiger it didn’t matter either way—Europe was going to keep the Cup, so why not just go through the motions and get the heck out of there? With both players facing short par putts Woods told Molinari to pick up his coin. Molinari conceded nothing and forced Tiger to finish the hole. “After that all went down, my putt was useless,” Woods said. “It was inconsequential. So I hit it too quick, and gave him his putt.” That was a presumptuous analysis by Woods; surely some of his teammates would prefer to say they tied this Ryder Cup rather than lost it. Molinari was not out of line to keep fighting to the bitter end, but he did miss a chance at a magnanimous, Nicklausian moment. Love spoke for everyone when he called the Cup’s final moments “awkward.”
Most Questionable Captain’s Decision: Love’s choices to fill out his team. Dustin Johnson was a stud, with a 3–0 record, but Snedeker, Furyk and Stricker lost their singles matches and went a combined 2–8, including 0–4 for the 45-year-old Stricks.
Worth Repeating: “Not for a long time. Not ever, actually.” —McIlroy, who was driven to the course by a state trooper, when asked the last time he had been in a police car
“We’ll get together with the American team tonight and have a few beers. But our beer will taste better.” —Lee Westwood