Europe’s Ian Poulter (left) and team captain Jose Maria Olazabal celebrated with with the Ryder Cup Photo: ERIK S LESSER/EPA
Perhaps the finest example in recent times was Liverpool’s victory in the 2005 Champions League final after being 3-0 down at half-time.
The sense around the Medinah Country Club early on Sunday morning was that Europe would be dispatched without fuss: especially after Rory McIlroy, the world No 1, confused central and eastern time and required a state trooper to flash him through the traffic to make his tee time.
The sight of Europe’s best player being delivered to Medinah in an Illinois police car sharpened the quills of those expecting to write condemnatory reviews of José María Olazábal’s captaincy.
At the back of the first tee at the start of a miraculous day of golf, Pep Guardiola, the ex-Barcelona coach now on sabbatical, revved up the crowd and jabbered to his wife and young children.
Lionel Messi’s former manager hugged Olazábal and Miguel Angel Jimenez, one of Europe’s vice-captains.
Nice. But surely Guardiola’s enthusiasm would be a mere footnote to a humiliating day.
McIlroy had been 10 minutes away from sinking the whole European effort. A no-show would have brought disqualification, ignominy, and an American victory.
Yet there was a strange energy around that patch of grass, with its competing galleries of boisterous fans. Up ahead, Ian Poulter had recorded his sixth consecutive birdie at the first hole, following his five at the end of the fourball on Saturday. That victory had sparked a European party.
Players, assistants, families and fans joined in spontaneous rejoicing as Poulter and McIlroy pulled the score back to 10-6 heading into the singles.
In the stands I turned to a colleague and said: “You’d think they’d won this Ryder Cup.”
The trophy, regained by Europe in the quagmire of Wales’ Celtic Manor, would not pass quietly to Captain Love, to the wild-eyed rookie, Keegan Bradley, to the rabble-rousing Bubba Watson.
This much was obvious. Before the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history commenced there was a Saturday night team meeting, inevitably, in which the spirit of Seve Ballesteros was invoked and the mantra of “belief” recited by Olazábal.
Oh, sure. What else is there for a beaten team to do than summon the old standby of defiance? Olazábal’s men, though, were not trading hollow slogans.
“There was something in that team room which ignited everybody, and it was inspirational, just to see everybody’s kind of personalities change and the atmosphere change in that room,” said Poulter, the new monarch of Ryder Cup golf. “And I knew there was a glimmer of hope.”
Sergio García and Paul Lawrie were there at Brookline in 1999 when the USA overturned the same 10-6 deficit. They knew it was possible and they remember how it felt to enter the singles matches in such a commanding position.
García could hear the echo as Europe’s five-man hit squad set out to snatch the first five matches and stun the Americans.
Luke Donald beat the Masters champion, Bubba Watson, in match one. Poulter won the last two holes to flatten the US Open champion, Webb Simpson. McIlroy ended the unbeaten of run of Keegan Bradley. Rose took the last two holes to see off Phil Mickelson. Paul Lawrie destroyed Brandt Snedeker with a 50-foot birdie and an eagle. Lawrie’s return from the wilderness to Ryder Cup assassin was another compelling storyline.
“Some of us were there in 1999 and we knew we needed to put the American team in a situation where we could see how they felt with a bit more pressure on,” García said.
“Obviously everything was going their way throughout the whole week. You know, they were making the putts, they were getting the good breaks here and there.
“We were just waiting to change that a little bit and see if we could do the same thing they did to us in ’99 and see how they could react to that.
“Obviously a lot of the matches were won because some of my team-mates played amazing; and in some others we took the possibility or the opening that they gave us.
“I have been in that position, Lee [Westwood] has been in that position, José has been in that position. We know how it feels, and it’s not easy.
“We wanted to see how they would react and see if they could hold it. It was a combination of playing great and maybe then that little bit of pressure getting to them.”
Olazábal knew, all right. He had watched from the 17th green in Massachusetts as Justin Leonard rolled in a 45-foot birdie putt. The ‘Miracle at Brookline’ was sealed when Olazábal missed his own birdie putt.
Ryder Cup golf is unlikely to script up a finer example of redemption, or revenge, if you prefer.
As a contest, the Ryder Cup is on a golden run of European domination, to which America now need to respond.
Action is needed, too, to stem the obnoxious taunting of players and their wives and partners. The “F*** you, Seve” shout from the Medinah crowd was a low point, along with the heckling of Rose about his father, who died this year.
Nor should wives or girlfriend have to endure lewd comments about their breast sizes. Part of the problem is in the Ryder Cup’s great strength: its ability to generate passion that overwhelms and sometimes warps emotions.
Across the gamut of this Ryder Cup, however, Lawrie was made to look a boy again, by his own brilliance; Jim Furyk was cast as a broken man, hands on knees; Tiger Woods lost the last of his credibility as a Ryder Cup contestant; Nicolas Colsaerts made a name for himself on Friday as a genius putter; Rose (three points) came of age as matchplay aristocracy and Martin Kaymer sank the winning putt to alleviate the stress of his mediocre strokeplay form.
If one European’s eyes sparkled with the light of revelation, it was the ‘Muscles from Brussels’, Colsaerts, who shot eight birdies and an eagle on Friday in the best ever round by a Ryder Cup rookie.
“Undescribable [sic]”, he said. “When I was given a chance to be part of this experience I never thought it was going to be this intense. I’ve had so many dreams about being part of experiences like these, but this has just been mind-blowing since the practice rounds on day one.
“Hanging out with all these guys, discovering all different personalities, and seeing them deliver on a day of the highest pressure like this in front of the whole world, is, like I said, it’s just undescribable.”
With four wins from four outings, punkish, proud Poulter was Ballesteros’s representative on the field, while Olazábal is the spiritual guardian of his legacy.
The star of this amazing Chicago show, Poulter found the heart of it. “This Ryder Cup,” he said, “is not for the faint of heart.”
Source The Telegraph
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