The colossal collapse of the American Ryder Cup team at Medina this weekend is wrought with all kinds of hubris. Down 10 to 6 going into the Sunday Singles the Europeans gathered themselves winning 8 of the 12 matches outright to snatch victory for the jaws defeat and return the Gold Cup to European soil for the next two years.
So many personal vignettes from this weekend-below are reflections on some of them.
Jose Maria Olazabal: A direct connection to Seve who remains the heart and spirit that drives the European Ryder Cup successes. Some delayed gratification to Jose for having to putt through the American footprints at Brookline in 1999.
Ian Poulter: The flashy duds are just a distraction. There is a heart of a champion burning in his chest and the Ryder Cup is a personal display case for this. He just cannot seem to hasten it in the Majors but maybe it is just a matter of time. In retrospect, Poulter’s late birdie run in the exhilarating comeback in Saturday afternoon’s four-ball match against Johnson and Dufner may have been the turning of the tide. Four wins this week and 12-3-0 overall in the Ryder Cup is an impressive resume.
Justin Rose: This man will win a major in the next 18 months. His gutsy performance making the par saving putt on 16 and the two daggers on 17 and 18 to pull out the seminal singles match against Phil should dispel the notion that Rose cannot putt when it matters. The bigger the stage, the more difficult the track the better this man performs.
Rory McIllroy: The yoke of #1 in the world can be heavy but he has proven time and again this season that he is strong enough to bear it’s burden. Besides the small matter of not being able to set his alarm clock for his Sunday appointment, at 23 years old he was a true leader for this team. He came through with Poulter on Saturday night and had a convincing win against Keegan on Sunday that helped right the European ship.
Sergio Garcia: He cannot ever make up for his perception as an underachiever because of his lack of a major victory, but the Ryder Cup has always been his forte. Teaming with Luke Donald they beat Tiger-Stricker in the other key Four-Ball match on Saturday and a gusty back nine performance Sunday outfitted Jim Furyk for the another goat costume in the singles. Sergio may not believe in himself but the Europeans sure believe in him and were sure glad to have him back on the team.
Luke Donald: May not be a true #1 in the world but you could see throughout this competition that his competitive grit and amazing short game make him a formidable foe. He surely silenced the babbling Bubba as the first match out this Sunday.
Nicolas Colsaerts: His 1 and 3 performance as a rookie was only so-so but an eight birdie-one eagle performance to single handedly beat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in the Friday Four Ball is a thing of Ryder Cup lore.
Martin Kaymer: Proof that, if you have the right stuff, you can 180 a bad career trend in one afternoon. His steely five-foot par putt on 18 against Stricker erased some bad German memories from the 1991 War By The Shore and put the Cup back in a first class trans Atlantic seat for the ride home.
Davis Love III: He brought the right temperament to the U.S. squad to make these show ponies feel comfortable. Some will second guess a couple of line up moves but winning the first three sessions you have to think he put the Americans in a position to be successful. The abject failure of his hottest players to win a point in the first five matches on Sunday has to fall on the players not the coach.
Steve Stricker: Next time you see him at a team event he will be wearing an earplug as a captain’s assistant.
Tiger Woods: 1/2 a point contribution….really…you have to expect more from your top stallion no matter how poorly his support staff supports.
Zach Johnson: Testimony that it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that matters. His two wins with Dufner may have lacked sizzle but they helped build a formidable American advantage through two days. A sound drubbing of a struggling Graeme McDowell may have been one of the reasons that the competition came down to the last three games.
Keegan Bradley: The crazed look, the boundless reservoir of energy makes him the ultimate warrior to have with you in the fox hole. He single handedly revived Mickey’s Ryder Cup performance and that was no small order.
Phil Mickeson: In some ways he may be the greatest sportsman of this golf generation. There is so much Arnold fire and Nicklaus grace sewn into his competitive personality. Phil handled the Justin Rose onslaught on the final three holes of their singles match with dignity and aplomb worth sharing with your children.
Jason Dufner: We have to accept his flat line TV persona as a genetic given but he shown in this Ryder Cup that he has the fire and talent set to perform at the highest level in the biggest events. He, like Rose, will win a major in the next couple of years and maybe more than one.
Jim Furyk: Not withstanding the 5-hour Energy sponsorship, he is a tired figment of his former warrior self. It has been difficult to watch him be placed in the cross hairs at a major golf competition so many times this summer. Another one who may be better outfitted with a head set for the next international team competition.
In the end we have seen that the Ryder Cup remains a compelling piece of golf drama and that the Europeans continue to write the script. They have won five of the past six and, more than anything, this means that home court advantage for the Americans is just a figment of our imagination.