The European squad won the 2012 Ryder Cup by equaling the biggest comeback in the history of the matches. It was an incredible day of golf, featuring some clutch heroics by the Europeans and some painful failures by U.S. players at crucial moments. This post will highlight a few of the key figures in the success of the victorious European team.
Any discussion of the 2012 Ryder Cup simply has to start with Poulter. His dramatic five-straight-birdie rally on Saturday evening set the stage for what would happen on Sunday. Poulter seems to have taken the mantle from Sergio Garcia as the emotional leader of the Euros. His play on the regular tour tends to be inconsistent, but he has big time game and the Ryder Cup obviously brings out the best in him.
As the number one player in the world, it would seem that Rory could afford to pay someone to make sure he gets places on time. Apparently not. Incredibly, McIlroy was not familiar with what time zone he was in, and only made his tee time thanks to a police escort from the hotel directly to the tee.
To his credit, McIlroy calmly walked from the courtesy car to the first tee and took out American star Keegan Bradley. As was noted on the broadcast, McIlroy was probably the best equipped player in the event to have to hit the course with no warm up. Rory is a very natural talent, and at 23, can’t have too many stiff muscles to loosen up on the range just yet.
In my opinion, the match that Paul Lawrie won over Brandt Snedeker was the one point that Europe never could have expected. Snedeker took home the biggest cash prize in golf last week, and Lawrie is 13 years removed from his greatest moment on a golf course. However, the 1999 British Open champion dismantled Snedeker in a match that was never close. For a 43 year old mostly journeyman pro, this had to be an incredibly sweet moment.
If there was a single shot that defined the Sunday comeback for the Europeans, it is undoubtedly the cross-green birdie putt that Rose buried on 17 to draw even in his match with Phil Mickelson. After Phil had nearly holed a birdie chip of his own, Rose had to make his putt to have any hope of winning the match. Not only did he make it, he went on the birdie 18 and lock up the full point for Europe. It was at that point that the impossible comeback started to seem very real.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle going out first, Donald took care of the dynamic Bubba Watson easily and got Europe off on the right foot. Although he is British, Donald went to college in Chicago at Northwestern, and still lives there. He has surely played a lot of golf at Medinah, and had his share of support in the crowd despite not wearing the red, white, and blue.
Jose Maria Olazabal
When the flashy Spaniard Olazabal was selected as Captain for Europe, there was no doubt the team would play with passion. Very few have brought more fire and flair to the game than Olazabal. That passion was taken to a new level with the passing of fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros. Europe wore a tribute to Seve on their sleeves, and he was in their thoughts throughout the matches. To win the Cup on U.S. soil in honor of Seve was an accomplishment that brought Olazabal to tears.
With this win, Europe now has taken the Ryder Cup in 7 of the last 9 matches. What is to credit for their dominance? Some say they have more camaraderie than the Americans, while others say the Euros are better at playing under pressure. To me, they simply have better players. If you look objectively at the rosters of the European team, the top six players are consistently better than the top six for the American team. The U.S. team is probably deeper in most years, but that depth has not been enough to make up for the Euros top heavy lineup. With the emergence of McIlroy as world number one, and the waning careers of Woods and Mickelson, it is easy to imagine Europe continuing to dominate the matches for the foreseeable future.