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Europeans Beat U.S. at Their Own Game
Team Europe turned the tables on Team USA, beating them at their own game on the final day of the 2012 Ryder Cup, taking them down in mano-a-mano singles matches in an epic comeback en route to retaining the Cup with a 14˝ to 13˝ win.
Historically great at team competition and not-so-great in the singles matches, Team Europe came up giant killers on the final day, charging out of the gate and pulling off the greatest comeback since, well, since 1999 at Brookline, when Team USA came back from a 10-6 deficit, the same edge they enjoyed entering Sunday at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
And, historically not-so-great at team competition and great in the singles matches, Team USA ham-and-egged their way on the first two days of of four-balls and foursomes this year, beating the Europeans handily only to fall in match after match in singles.
You want theater? There were so many great stories and ironies at this Cup. The spirit of Seve Ballesteros lifting and guiding the Europeans. Seve's old teammate and fellow Spaniard, Jose Maria Olazabal, the player standing on the 17th green at Brookline in '99 when Justin Leonard dropped the bomb that clinched the Americans' improbable comeback that year, now leading the Europeans to an even more improbable comeback, this one on foreign soil, as the 2012 captain.
In 1991 a German, Bernhard Langer, misses a six-footer which would have retained the Ryder Cup for the Europeans. In 2012, a German, Martin Kaymer, makes a six-footer to retain the Cup for the Euros.
Nicolas Colsaerts three-putting from five feet - instead of winning the hole, he loses the hole - during his loss Sunday to Dustin Johnson. Webb Simpson shanking his tee shot at the par-3 eighth en route to losing his match to Ian Poulter.
And it continues. Justin Rose birdieing the final three holes to beat Phil Mickelson on the final hole. Rory McIlroy arriving at the course 11 minutes before his tee time, leaving him no time to warm up and his first swing of the day being a driver on the first tee in his match (which he would win) against Keegan Bradley, who couldn't keep his rookie mojo going long enough to take down the world's No. 1.
Other memories include the heartbreak of Steve Stricker, the "hometown" boy from Wisconsin who went to college at the University of Illinois, who grew up just 100 miles from Medinah and at age 45 was the fourth-oldest captain's pick. He was picked because of his prowess with the putter, but on Sunday he couldn't get anything to fall. Stricker went 0-4 this week, and you couldn't help but feel for one of the game's nicer guys.
In the post-round interviews, emotions were still raw, as the captains on both sides struggled to digest what had just transpired. Here's what they had to say.
DAVIS LOVE III: We all went to plan. We were four ahead. The plan worked the first two days, it just didn't work today. We're all kind of stunned. We know what it feels like now from the '99 Ryder Cup. It's a little bit shocking. We were playing so well, everybody on our team was playing so well, we just figured it didn't matter how we sent them out there. But we put who we thought were our hot players up front and we put who we thought were our steady players in the back that would get us points. We all thought it would come down to Jason Dufner, and he played very, very well. We just got a couple matches flipped there in the middle that cost us.
Q. At what point were you going, uh oh, this is not going the right way? What was the score?
DAVIS LOVE III: The score, middle of the when we all got past No.9, I knew that somebody was going to have to play well coming down the stretch. What happened to us is we got a couple matches flipped that normally would have counted. When you lose some of those 16 and 17s and 17 and 18s, when the match gets flipped, that's what costs you.
Q. I know that's a tough one to swallow but you guys played with a lot of class.
DAVIS LOVE III: That's golf. We didn't play well today. We could have laid them out there in about any order today and played like that. It wouldn't have really mattered. These guys had a great week, had a lot of fun, and they played well. They played a lot of good golf, and so did the other side. To end up like that is unfortunate. I know these guys put a lot into it. Ultimately this team really understands it's just golf.
Q. Everybody is probably going to second guess a lot of things, but I want to express an appreciation for the job you do.
DAVIS LOVE III: That's my job is to get second guessed. Those guys tried their hardest, and we could have put out a whole bunch of different plans, but if we don't play well and the team plays like that, you're going to get beaten.
Q. I can imagine 24 hours ago you wouldn't have thought you'd be standing here in this situation. Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything different, not only this week but with your selections?
DAVIS LOVE III: No, I wouldn't have done anything different. They played great. This is a great team, we had a great week. We played together as a team, and today we said we want to win every segment, and we got a halve out of a couple of them, and we got beat badly in this one. Any time you lose a segment that badly, it's going to cost you the Ryder Cup.
Q. You played on that '99 Ryder Cup team that came back from a 10 6 deficit. How big a comeback do you think this is on their behalf?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's exactly the same, same score. They came back and won. Give them a lot of credit; they played very, very well. They had a couple hot streaks the first two days that kept them in it. Ian's hot streak at the end there yesterday gave them some confidence, and I know they built on that. We tried to say, they got on a little bit of a run, but if we can get a run early guys that started hot the first couple days did not start hot today.
JOSE MARIA OLAZÁBAL: I mean, this one is for the whole of Europe, period.
Q. You told me this morning that you felt Seve in the team room last night. You felt that he could propel you guys to a victory today. How was his presence felt this afternoon?
JOSE MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, Seve will always be present. Seve will always be present with this team. He was a big factor for this event, for the European side, and last night when we were having that meeting, I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing, and I think they did.
Q. You've won a couple of major championships. You told me earlier in the week that it was very difficult to watch the players play as opposed to being able to hit the shots the way you normally did in your career. What was it like to go through this whole experience the last three days?
JOSE MARIA OLAZÁBAL: Well, it's been a tough week. The first two days nothing went our way. We struggled on the greens, and this morning I felt a little change in that regard, and we started to make a few putts. The Americans just started to miss them. And winning those few matches, that was key. You know, as you said, I've been under pressure hitting shots, but today tops that.
At the closing ceremony, Olazabal said, "All men die, but not all men live." And then he turned to his team and said, "Today, you made me feel alive."
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy ASAP Sports.