Contributed by Vartan Kupelian for GlobalGolfPost
The uniqueness of the Ryder Cup is this: Try as you might, it is
difficult – maybe even impossible – to identify the seminal moment of the
It ebbs and it flows until the drama reaches a compelling and ultimate
conclusion. And that’s why the Ryder Cup is what it is – an event so riveting
and so impossible not to embrace for anybody with a sporting soul.
Captain José Maria Olazábal gathered 12 sturdy golfers from
Europe, brought them to Medinah Country Club and authored a story about
spirit, fate and extraordinary shotmaking against unbelievable odds. And right
there, every step of the way and with every swing of the club, was the memory
of the late Severiano Ballesteros, the swashbuckling Spaniard who changed the
course of the Ryder Cup with his verve, his manner and his immense golf game.
Europe was determined to honor his passing in the first Ryder Cup played
since Ballesteros’ death in May, 2011, in a way that would memorialize his
massive contribution to golf in Europe. Mission accomplished.
The sum of the parts enabled Europe to win the Ryder Cup, 14½-13½, over the
United States, equaling the greatest final day comeback in the history of the
matches. The United States rallied from the same 10-6 deficit in 1999 at The
Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
“Seve, Seve, Seve, Seve,” said Ian Poulter, Europe’s talisman. “Ryder Cups
are what dreams are made of.”
Sergio Garcia, the young Spaniard who follows in the footsteps of
Ballesteros and Olazabal, said it was about Seve every step of the way.
“I have no doubt that he was with me today all day,” Garcia said after his
1-up victory over Jim Furyk. “Because there’s no chance I would have won my
match if he wasn’t there. It was amazing and it feels so good to be able to win
it for him and for our captain, José.”
“Brookline was just one of the worst experiences of my life,” Paul Lawrie
said. “Obviously, today is the opposite. Everyone’s been brilliant.”
Medinah was Lawrie’s first Ryder Cup appearance since Brookline, and he made
amends with a decisive 5-and-3 victory over Brandt Snedeker. Lawrie was one of
three golfers who experienced the crush¬ing defeat at Brookline, along with Lee
Westwood and Garcia.
“The last time it was done it was the American team in America,” Westwood
said. “This is the greatest comeback in the Ryder Cup, ever.”
Olazábal said, “This one is for the whole of Europe, period.”
The winning stroke was made by Germany’s Martin Kaymer and that, in itself,
is the kind of poignant moment that takes over the Ryder Cup. Kaymer’s par putt
on the 18th hole of his match against Steve Stricker gave him a 1-up victory
and assured at least a tie in the match, enabling Europe to retain the Ryder
Cup. When Francesco Molinari followed with a conceded halve against Tiger
Woods, it was an outright victory.
Kaymer grew up with countryman Bernhard Langer as his mentor and idol.
Langer is the two-time Masters champion and was captain of the 2004 European
Ryder Cup team that routed the United States at Oakland Hills. It was in 1991,
at the War by the Shore on Kiawah Island where antagonism ruled over golf for the most
part and ultimately re-shaped the tenor of the matches. On the 18th green of
the final match against Hale Irwin, faced with the same situation as Kaymer,
Langer missed a putt of almost identical six feet in length. Had Langer made
the putt, Europe would have tied the United States and retained the Ryder Cup.
“I was so nervous the last two, three holes when José Maria came to me and
said we may need (my) point to win the Ryder Cup,” said Kaymer, the 2010 PGA
Champion and only second German to play in the Ryder Cup. “Just to have that
Cup, to win the Ryder Cup, that is what I practiced for the past 10, 15 years.”
Kaymer came to Medinah with his ranking in disarray and was benched for the
Saturday matches. On Friday, he sought out Langer for help.
“I talked to him a little bit about the Ryder Cup because my attitude wasn’t
the right one,” Kaymer said. “I know how important the Ryder Cup became.
Bernhard helped me so much just to sit down with me and talk about it.”
The 12 singles matches Sunday produced nail-biting excitement, uncontrolled
emotion, tears, passion and captivating golf. Olazábal front-loaded his team,
just as U.S. Captain Ben Crenshaw had 13 years earlier at The Country Club, and
the blue representing Europe on the scoreboards was prevalent from the start.
“The first two days we just got beat up,” Graeme McDowell said. “But there
was a sense of relief in the room (Saturday night), something good had to
happen to us. When we saw the singles draw we just figured we could win a lot
The Europeans had hope because they knew the story of Brookline. There was
so much of Brookline at Medinah. Upsets and comebacks, by necessity, have
On the 17th green against Phil Mickelson, England’s Justin Rose made an
unlikely, curling 35-foot birdie putt to square the match. Rose won 1 up with
another birdie at 18. On the 17th green at Brookline 13 years ago, Justin
Leonard made a massive 50-foot putt for birdie, the point to clinch the Cup and
a serious case of American euphoria.
Leonard’s opponent that day? José Maria Olazábal.
No surprise there. In the Ryder Cup, fate has become a part of the game.
PHOTO: Getty Images