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McGinley's selection as Ryder Cup captain a natural one for Europe

By John Huggan

Abu Dhabi, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- After all the talking, all the speculation, all the toing and froing, all the other names in the Ryder Cup frame, it took the European Tour's tournament committee only an hour to decide that Paul McGinley was the man they wanted to lead Old World against New at Gleneagles next year.

Five men were considered: Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul Lawrie and McGinley.

"But we are 100 percent behind this captain," said Thomas Bjorn, chairman of the 15-strong committee. "It was obvious very early that a consensus was forming. We had all listened to the players on tour and it was obvious who they wanted to represent them. In the end, it was a unanimous decision and we are all 100 percent behind him."


Photo by Getty Images

Certainly, McGinley was pleased with the outcome. He arrived on stage for the late night press conference held in the Regal Ballroom inside the St. Regis hotel here with the widest of smiles across his expressive face. And the first thing he did was reach across and fondly caress the famous gold trophy, one that Europe has won in seven of the last nine encounters with the United States.

Related: Recent U.S. Ryder Cup captains

"I'm thrilled," he said. "It's a great honor to be chosen to lead the cream of the crop from what is arguably the strongest European Tour in history. I'm humbled to be sitting here as Ryder Cup captain and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to go up against one of my golfing heroes in Tom Watson."

Certainly, it was obvious that the 46-year old Dubliner had the support of the vast majority amongst the tour's rank-and-file. So if the committee members took any account of that level of feeling -- and they did -- there was only ever going to be one winner.

Perhaps even more importantly, McGinley had the public backing of world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and three other key members of the 2012 team -- Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Luke Donald. Throw in the fact that Irishmen McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowery and Peter Lawrie all appeared during the new skipper's press conference and it is clear that Europe has perhaps never before had a more universally-popular leader.

"Common sense prevailed," tweeted the world No. 1. "Paul McGinley 2014 European Ryder Cup captain. Couldn't be happier for him. Roll on Gleneagles."

"I stand by what I said earlier this week," continued McIlroy. "And it would be great to see Darren Clarke get the job in 2016. I played under Paul in the Seve Trophy and had such a good time. He made us all feel so comfortable. He's the best captain I've ever played under."

Such an unprovoked recommendation did not go unnoticed by McGinley, who was noticeably and sensibly silent throughout the convoluted and sometimes near-farcical build-up to the committee's decision. "It's amazing what you can learn when you listen and don't talk," he said with a smile. "Besides, the players were speaking for me so there was no need for me to say anything. But I will say that Rory is in good shape for a pick if he doesn't make the team."

Cue yet another grin as wide as Galway Bay.

Related: How Tom Watson became the next U.S. captain

Three times a Ryder Cup player -- three times on the winning side -- McGinley memorably holed the winning putt at The Belfry in 2002 and twice served as vice-captain in the biennial contest, as well as twice led the Great Britain & Ireland side against the Continent of Europe in the Seve Trophy. It was there that he developed the reputation for thoroughness and attention to detail that undoubtedly contributed most to his selection.

Still, with only four European Tour victories on his resume -- he and Padraig Harrington also won the World Cup for Ireland in 1997 -- he does at first glance have the look of a diminutive David against the golfing Goliath that is the eight-time major champion, Watson. And yes, he is surely the least-distinguished player to land the role since John Jacobs in1981. But don't be fooled. McGinley was ultimately the right man for the job --ask almost anyone on the European Tour and they'll tell you so.

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News & Tours

How Tom Watson's Ryder Cup captaincy really took shape

By Tim Rosaforte

Breaking the mold on American Ryder Cup captaincy, as the PGA of America did with a blockbuster announcement Thursday in New York, all began with the writings of Jim Huber. When a copy of the essayist's book, "Four Days In July," on Tom Watson's mythical run at the Open Championship in 2009, was placed in the hands of Ted Bishop at last year's PGA Grand Slam of Golf, the then-PGA vice president was moved. So was Huber when Bishop called to pitch his idea of Watson in a return engagement as captain, 21 years after leading the United States to its last Cup victory on foreign soil. "The idea is absolutely brilliant," Huber said.

The idea was not only brilliant, so was the execution. Three months after the longtime writer and broadcaster died suddenly and tragically of acute leukemia, 13 months after Bishop presented his idea, Tom Watson stood on the sidewalk outside 30 Rockefeller Center, announced to the world by Matt Lauer on the "Today" show as the next American Ryder Cup captain. Before our eyes, "Four Days in July" became "Three Days in Scotland" with a September 2014 run date.


Photo by Getty Images

At 65 and 22 days when the matches begin, Watson will be the oldest Ryder Cup captain ever, but as Luke Donald the artist painted the word picture on a tweet, we all can't wait to see the Young Tom "rocking his flat cap" once more. Something that Bishop first thought was off the wall has stuck.

Turns out, this was a conversation we'd be having even if Justin Rose didn't make his putt on the 17th green at Medinah, or if Martin Kaymer didn't bury the game winner in the 18th green for Team Europe. For Bishop, it was all about the fit of Watson and Scotland, where he is a kindred spirit, where the people call him "Our Tom." Maybe Watson, the favorite son, adopted with the four claret jugs he won on their sod, will add a Ryder Cup to his treasure chest and go off into the mist with the bagpipes playing and everybody crying with him. Maybe he won't and it will be like Turnberry, but there's not a better ambassador, a better man for the job at this point in history, than the man selected.

Related: Ron Sirak on why Watson is the right choice

Even Larry Nelson and David Toms would have to admit that. The love Watson has for Scotland shows in his eyes and the corners of his mouth simply when he hears the accent. He is a romantic when it comes to the game and the idea of him going back to the site where Walter Hagen played Ted Ray in the 1921 Ryder Cup simply turned him on. At his news conference in the Empire State Building, he quoted the history, waxed about returning to Pershire, and did everything but sing "Scotland The Brave" during his big reveal. I remembered what he said at Turnberry about the game "being a fabric of life over here."

Keep in mind this is more than a feel-good story. Bishop didn't orchestrate this simply as a nostalgia trip or to create a storyline that would keep the audience over here in America for those 4 a.m. wakeup calls to watch golf. Nor did he do it as a knee-jerk reaction to the latest loss by a PGA-generated Ryder Cup team. This had been in the pipeline 11 months before Davis Love's team couldn't hold a four-point Sunday lead in Chicago. Selling the idea to the PGA's officers and rolling it out before Christmas was a game changer without a shot being struck.

If this is anything like 1993, Watson will not lead by committee the way Love did, nor will he shut himself off to feedback and rule like Hogan did in '67. "He won't walk in the (team) room and say, 'Here's the lineup," said his caddie, Neil Oxman. "He won't be a dictator." At the same time, Watson made it clear it's his team, and that "the ultimate decision is mine."

Watson is expected to have the chops Tony Jacklin had with Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer, when he had to cajole them into playing matches when they were tired, as was the case with Phil Mickelson Saturday at Medinah. It's doubtful whether he will bow to Tiger Woods' wishes about moving down on the lineup card to 12th -- as was the case in this year's singles. As Jacklin told me Thursday, "At the end of the day, the captains captain and the players play."

Related: A look back at recent U.S. Ryder Cup captains

As for being in touch with the young kids, Watson will be playing the Masters, the Open Championship, and the Greenbrier, where he will be bumping into Tiger and all the other superstars on a regular basis over the next two years. If there was a potential friction point to this announcement, it was the Watson-Woods relationship after Tom's critical comments of Tiger's on-course behavior in 2010. That was smoothed over when the Woods camp issued a statement before Watson walked into the Empire State Building. Watson said he stood by his words but that they've both moved on, which appears to be the case.

"If he's not on the team for any unforeseen reason, and I'm sure he will be, you can bet that he's going to be No. 1 on my pick list," Watson said. "I want him on my team."

Always a fan of the gentleman's game, Jim Huber was indirectly a peacemaker, too.

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News & Tours

In naming Tom Watson U.S. captain, PGA of America is making a statement

By Tim Rosaforte

The one criticism I keep hearing about the United States in Ryder Cup competition is too much deferring by the captain, too much a team by committee. I also keep hearing the PGA of America and its new president Ted Bishop wants to shake things up. So what better way to go back in time than bring back Tom Watson, which my sources say they plan to do.


Related: The reasons the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup

As for Watson, and why he's a good fit, the reasons jump off the page: Last winning away captain for the United States; revered in Scotland, where the competition is being held at the Gleneagles Resort in 2014; a legend younger players would look up to and respect -- because he's not afraid to speak his mind or make a decision. That was the case in 1993, when he captained the U.S. to victory at The Belfry.

You may remember Watson outraged several European players, most noticeably Sam Torrance, by refusing to participate in the traditional passing of the menus for autographs. You may not remember that Watson made most of the calls on pairings and slots in the singles lineup.

Related: Tom Watson's Golf Digest tips

John Cook was on that team and sat until Saturday, when he and Chip Beck were sent out to face the supposedly indomitable European team of Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie. Cook and Beck won 2 up and turned the tide in what was one of only three United States victories in 20 years.

"I don't think he asked anybody, to tell you the truth," Cook said when I reached him Tuesday evening. "He had his game plan with Stan Thirsk. He talked to Roy Williams, who was then at Kansas, about coaching. I know he had his practice pairings, but he just kind of observed, made his mental notes and made the pairings. We had such a complete trust in Tom and what he was doing. He was the captain. He ran the show. He took the bull and rode it all the way to the end."

One bull that Watson may have a tough time riding is Tiger Woods. Watson made some comments about Tiger's on-course behavior in 2010 that could still be lingering but that, in part, is why I expect the PGA to break tradition and go old school. Watson has never been afraid of shaking it up, speaking his mind, or making a call. Sounds like the new PGA president is of the same mind.

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News & Tours

PGA hints Ryder Cup pick will be "different"

By Sam Weinman

For those handicapping the U.S. Ryder Cup captain's selection, consider this somewhat loaded remark by PGA of America president Ted Bishop at a media luncheon Tuesday in New York:

"We've done something a little bit different this year," Bishop said.

Tom Watson in 1993 was the last Ryder Cup captain to win in Europe. Photo: Chris Cole/Getty Images

Presumably Bishop was referring to more than the decision to announce the picks on the "Today" show Thursday morning, but also the standard PGA of America practice of designated a forty-something former major champion winner as the team's next captain. That philosophy stems from the idea that such a player would be young enough to be in touch with today's tour stars, but old enough to no longer be competitive themselves. But perhaps because there's a dearth of such players available -- David Toms, 45, is the only one who jumps out (though, he reportedly has not been approached about the position) -- the PGA may be more leaning toward the likes of Larry Nelson (65) or Tom Watson (63).

Related: Reasons the U.S. lost the 2012 Ryder Cup

Watson was captain of the last U.S. team to win in Europe, at the Belfry in 1993 and said this week he'd love another chance at a captaincy. Nelson, meanwhile, is a three-time major champion with a 9-3-1 career Ryder Cup record who has famously been passed over in the past. But if Bishop's statement is an indicator, he could be getting a second look this year.

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News & Tours

Disappointed Woods apologizes to Ryder Cup rookie teammates

By Tim Rosaforte

Tiger Woods registered a mere half point in the U.S. loss to Europe in the Ryder Cup, but to hear his teammates frame it, his investment in the event went far deeper than that.

Related: How would Woods be as a Ryder Cup captain?

The 14-time major champion was so disappointed in his performance at Medinah that he approached the U.S. team's four rookies and apologized for not producing enough points to clinch an American victory.


Photo by Getty Images

"He came up to us after it was over," one of those rookies, Brandt Snedeker, told Golf World. "Walking out, (Tiger) grabbed us all and said, 'I want to let you know, I'm sorry. My job is to get more points than I did. I didn't do it. I feel bad. Put this one on me, it's my fault."

Related: Tiger says he hopes to captain the U.S. 'some day'

Woods went 0-3-1 for the U.S., with his half point coming in what ended up being an inconsequential singles match against Francesco Molinari. In his professional career, he has still been part of only one victorious Ryder Cup team, at Brookline in 1999. But according to Snedeker and others, Woods was a vocal and supportive teammate at Medinah.

"The rap on him is he doesn't care," said Snedeker, who after claiming the FedEx Cup title, went 1-2 in his Ryder Cup debut. "Spend five minutes in the team room and you know he does. Going out for our match, he's like, 'Hey man, make some putts, take it to them.' He was beaten up about it, that he didn't play the way he wanted to play, but he was a huge reason why the rookies that played well played well."

Woods was also not above taking shots at himself. After an 0-2 start on Friday, the former No. 1 joked about his benching the next morning.

"At dinner Friday night, he said he wasn't playing in morning, and that finally somebody could win a point," said Snedeker.

Related: How the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup

Snedeker wasn't the only rookie impressed by Woods' influence that week. Keegan Bradley, who went 3-1 in his Ryder Cup debut, said Woods took a proactive role before the matches began, even inviting Bradley to dinner during the Barclays to discuss his Ryder Cup experience.

"It's ridiculous," Bradley said of criticism directed at Woods. "His record doesn't show it but he helped all of us rookies win points . . . I can't stress enough how awesome he's been to me, and for no reason. He deserves credit because he doesn't get any. He gets beat up all the time. He's a good dude."

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News & Tours

Video: Europeans discuss Ryder Cup victory with Piers Morgan

By Alex Myers

As a British journalist, Piers Morgan didn't hide who he was rooting for during the Ryder Cup. Not surprisingly, he then welcomed three members of the victorious European team onto his show the first chance he got.

On Monday, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose sat down for an interview on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight." Here's how the host set it up on Twitter:

"Warning to all Americans - do not watch my #CNN show for the next 15 minutes. It's going to be an unashamed Brit #RyderCup gloating orgy."

Related: The reasons the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup

Turns out, that was a bit of an over-statement. A civil conversation ensued, focusing on the topics you might expect, from the team using the memory of Seve Ballesteros as inspiration, to trying to quiet a boisterous U.S. crowd at Medinah. Here's the clip:

On Tuesday morning, Morgan tweeted about an office putting contest he was having with Poulter, who was there for an appearance on CNBC's "Squawk Box." Apparently, Poulter won 2 and 1. After the way the Ryder Cup stalwart putted at Medinah during his perfect 4-0 week, did you expect anything different?

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News & Tours

Police officer earns praise for delivering McIlroy to Medinah in time

By Stephen Hennessey

Instead of the Miracle at Medinah, would we be talking about the Catnap in Chicago?

If a Chicago police officer had delivered the World No. 1 golfer to Medinah a couple minutes later, the British tabloid headlines would've exploded with the story of Rory McIlroy missing his tee time and forfeiting his match to the U.S.' Keegan Bradley.


Rory McIlroy arrived to the first tee to a chorus of applause from the crowd, just on time for one of the day's marquee matches. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images.

The Chicago Sun-Times has the story on the officer who helped a sleepy McIlroy get to the course in time to win a crucial point against Bradley to secure a crucial point for the Europeans.

Patrick Rollins, a deputy police chief in Lombard, Ill., sat in the driver's seat as a bewildered McIlroy opened the door to the passenger's seat.

"He looked stunned, anxious and looked like a lot was going through his mind like I would have been," Rollins told Michael Sneed of the Sun-Times. "So I asked him if he'd be okay with me driving because of the possibility of motion sickness."

Related: The reasons why the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup

McIlroy, thanks to his police escort from the team hotel in Lombard, made it to the course in time for his marquee match with Bradley, and defeated the fiery American without any practice time, 2 & 1. It was the third in five-straight wins for the Euros to open up Sunday's unlikely comeback.

If it wasn't for Rollins, it's fair to predict the Euros would've really struggled to overcome that sort of momentum-changing forfeit.

And McIlroy would've struggled to ever shed the tag as the golfer who slept the Ryder Cup away.

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News & Tours

How the European team missed a double victory

By Cliff Schrock

During the opening and closing ceremonies of the 39th Ryder Cup, organizing dignitaries invoked the name of Samuel Ryder and cited the sportsmanship and goodwill he hoped to inspire by having a competition between golfers from America and, at the time, Britain.

blog_woods_molinari_1001.jpgThe fact that the English seed-and-garden merchant was also a justice of the peace explains why he liked seeing golfers react judiciously and with fairness in competitive moments.

So how did the conclusion of the Europeans' victory fit in with how Ryder wanted the two sides to compete?

Not too well, and the lack of a gesture of the type seen in the Ryder Cups of 1969 and 1999 did nothing to keep filtering out hostility that festers between the sides over past slights.

Related: How the U.S. lost

After Europe had clinched retaining the cup following Martin Kaymer's par putt on the 18th green in his match with Steve Stricker, the final singles match between Francesco Molinari and Tiger Woods was left in limbo back in the middle of the fairway.

The awkwardness of even finishing the match was now in question. Woods was leading, and certainly began 18 with the hope that his full point, combined with a Stricker half-point if he could win 18, would allow the United States to escape with a victory after a huge European comeback. Woods would have salvaged a major moment in 2012 by taking the winning point.

But after Kaymer's 1-up victory gave Europe its 14th point, and Europe's massive victory celebration in front of the green held up play, was there even a need to finish the match?

Dave Kindred: Europe gets a little help from above

There certainly was, out of Samuel Ryder fairness to Woods and Molinari, who had battled hard up to that point, expecting that their result would have meaning. In fairness, it was worth letting them play their second shots to see how the advantage played out. But when they stood nearly next to each other with similar-length par putts, the situation begged for a "good-good" conclusion, each conceding the other's putt.

The result would have been a Woods 1-up victory, an overall 14-14 tie, but Europe still keeping its hands on the cup for another two years. But after Woods missed, he conceded Molinari's putt, giving him the hole and a halve in the match.

So why was no "good-good" deed done? During questioning afterward, Molinari said he was told after Kaymer clinched that he needed to play out the hole because there was significance in getting to a score of 14 1/2 rather than 14. Woods had beaten Molinari, 4 and 3, in 2010, so perhaps it was felt getting a halve would be significant for the Italian.

Woods said he conceded the par putt because it meant nothing by then and Europe had already kept the cup.

Molinari, in just his second Ryder Cup, had the lesser pedigree and was only doing what he was told to do.

Related: Sunday's winners and losers from Medinah

But an opportunity was missed for the European team to have a double victory at Medinah. If the final match was allowed to end with a halve on 18 for a Woods victory and 14-14 tie, it would have demonstrated that Ryder's code of fairness has stayed foremost among the minds of players and captains. The Europeans would have demonstrated a respect for the effort and huge advantage the Americans had made to go into Sunday with a 10-6 lead. A tie would have given the home crowd and madly supportive Chicago-area crowd a kiss on the cheek for how much they made the event a success with their financial backing. It would have been a "thank you" to the state trooper who made sure time-zone confused Rory McIlroy didn't miss his tee time.

And the tie would have followed some notable gestures of its kind, such as Jack Nicklaus' famous concession in 1969 with Tony Jacklin, which ensured an overall tie, and, quite interestingly, something that occurred in 1999, the year a team -- the Americans -- first came back from a 10-6 deficit to win.

After the U.S. had clinched that comeback, and Payne Stewart was left on the 18th green to finish with Colin Montgomerie in the last singles match, Stewart conceded a birdie putt to Montgomerie, which gave Monty a 1-up victory. Stewart showed sportsmanship, character and compassion, the latter for verbal abuse Montgomerie had been getting from the gallery.

After a missed chance to follow Nicklaus' thinking that it's not in the spirit of the game to ruin a week's worth of golf with some potential animosity, we leave Medinah with the question: If a concession was good enough in 1969 for a tie, and a good-will gesture made in 1999 after a victory is assured, why was it not possible in 2012?

(Photo by Getty Images)

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News & Tours

The Ryder Cup: An All-Star game that actually matters

By Lou Riccio

The Ryder Cup is among the most exciting competitions in sports, and this one was no exception. The outcome was not what I would have preferred, but it was riveting right to the finish.

The intrigue behind the Ryder Cup could be attributed to national pride, or rival golf tours competing for world recognition and dominance. But the simple reason is the importance players place on it.

Related: How the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup

Professional golfers understand this is a unique competition. They change their lives and schedules to qualify for the team. When you hear players talk about the Ryder Cup, they desperately want to make the team because it establishes their place in golf. Why? Because the Ryder Cup is golf's All-Star game.


Photo by Getty Images

Making the team establishes the golfer as one of the best. The players take making the team as recognition of their ranking among their peers. And once on the team there is pressure to prove you deserve to be there.

Dave Kindred: Europe gets a little help from above

Not only is it golf's all-star game, this is the one all-star game in sports that actually matters. It is the one in which people care about the outcome, from players on down. Do people really care whether the American League beats the National League in baseball. In football making the Pro Bowl is great, but the game is all about not getting injured. Who cares who wins? The same for the NHL All-Star Game. And in the NBA All-Star Game, defense is optional. Those are all showcase events without any real meaning. Can you image a post-mortem press conference for one of those? A baseball player feeling badly that his league didn't win or a hockey goalie traumatized for life for having let a puck in the net to lose the game?

The Ryder Cup is very different. In some ways, unlike the other sports, it is the biggest event in golf. It is big-time sports.

As I said above, national sporting rivalries and golf tour rivalries are at stake. But it is even bigger for the players. Ryder Cup records are part of a player's legacy. They are an element in Hall of Fame calculations. Since golf is almost always an individual sport, a golfer's record in the Cup walks with them as they face the competition even in stroke play events.

Related: Sunday's winners and losers from Medinah

Although I didn't like the outcome, both teams should be proud to be the best of their respective tours. Being an all-star is very special. Now if we can only figure out how our all-stars can beat their all-stars!

Lou Riccio, Ph.D, a professor at Columbia University, provides statistical analysis for Golf Digest Live

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Crazy happened, and Seve saw it

By Dave Kindred

MEDINAH, Ill. -- This story begins on a sandy beach in the north of Spain. A boy with an old 3-iron. Hitting stones. Severiano Ballesteros, who in time would work magic. Better with a 3-iron out of a greenside bunker than most men with a sand wedge. Seve would win in ways no one else could imagine. To call him beautiful is to be precise, for he came to the world with looks and charm and with a gift of talent that he shared with us all.

He died a year ago, 54 years old, a cancer in his brain.

He was in Chicago this week.

Photo: Montana Pritchard/Getty Images

Sunday morning , before anyone struck a golf shot in this Ryder Cup, the European captain, Jose-Maria Olazabal, told a reporter, "I felt Seve in the team room last night." They'd been friends and partners, Ballesteros and Olazabal. Both won the Masters. They won and lost Ryder Cups together. They shared life. Sewn into the left sleeve of the European team's shirts for the Sunday singles competition, Olazabal had asked for the iconic image of Seve, an arm raised, Seve triumphant.

This was the kind of day Seve Ballesteros lived for. It was a day when something gets done that no one thought could be done. To win the Ryder Cup, the Europeans needed an historic, unprecedented comeback. They needed to win 8 of 12 singles points on the other team's home course. They won 8.5.

Related: Five biggest Ryder Cup Goats

They won those points against an American dozen that had nearly turned the thing into a rout in the first two days. As the shadows lengthened at Medinah Country Club late Saturday afternoon, the U.S. led, 10-4. With 14 points available, needing only 4 ¿ to win, a certain confidence settled on the Americans -- until, in Saturday's last two four-ball matches, the Europeans produced unlikely victories. Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald defeated Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. Then came Ian Poulter, the fire-breathing Englishman, "a cross between Rod Stewart and Sid Vicious," broadcaster Peter Jacobsen called him. Came Ian Poulter with five straight birdies on the last five holes to beat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.

There, in Poulter's work, was the turning point in this story. Poulter recognized it. "It was amazing to see the atmosphere change in that team room," he said. "The spirit, I mean, it just changed. ... All week we'd been beaten quite clearly, and we just felt there was that little glimmer of hope."

Two hours into Sunday's rounds, the glimmer had grown to a glow. Midway through most of the 12 matches, the Europeans led three and were all-square in seven. Suddenly, the game was afoot. On a golden autumn day, with Medinah's thousands of trees blazing orange, red, and yellow, the Ryder Cup became the best sports event in America. Better than any World Series spread over two midnight-oil weeks ... better than any NBA Finals, because, really, Oklahoma City? ... better than any Super Bowl because Mother Nature's spectacle is better than anything the NFL can create ... better, mostly, because the Ryder Cup is golf, and golf, more than any sport, gives us real narratives that, in the best of its stories, cause us to wonder how in hell anybody can breathe let alone draw it back for a shot over a pond the approximate size of the Atlantic.

Related: Winners & Losers from the 2012 Ryder Cup

Then the blue went up on the scoreboards, the European blue. The Scotsman, Paul Lawrie, defeated Brandt Snedeker, 5-and-3. That wasn't supposed to happen. Then Rory McIlroy defeated Keegan Bradley, 2-and-1 -- this after McIlroy had lost track of Illinois time and needed a state-trooper escort to reach Medinah 12 minutes before his tee time. Next, Poulter defeated Webb Simpson, 2-up, and he talked, haltingly, of "this good man on my left sleeve right now that's going to pull us through this."

A fantasy, that. But the signs were there for those who would see.

It turns out that McIlroy can make six birdies in Ryder Cup play without warming up, unless stuffing a breakfast sandwich into one's mouth while putting on one's shoes is warm-up enough at age 23. Soon enough, three Europeans had chipped in for birdies from distances as great as 100 feet. Lee Westwood heard silence and knew what it meant during his match with Matt Kuchar: "Quiet... then you knew that when you start hearing fans, 'Matt, we need you, they are under pressure."

The story is things we didn't know. "A Ryder Cup is not for the faint of heart," Poulter said, and the Belgian Nicolas Colsearts said, "It gets you through the guts." The Canadian sportswriter Bruce Arthur, in a tweet, called the developing story a mash-up of "Happy Gilmore and an Idiocracy Presidential convention." Meaning, let's guess, that Arthur liked the goofy improbability of it all. "It's what golf is all about," U.S. team captain Davis Love III said.

Now we have seen Keegan Bradley on fire. We have seen Jason Dufner impervious. Tiger Woods, the ultimate soloist, came down the first fairway this morning to cheer for a teammate. Zach Johnson has iron in his spine. All those Europeans, with their stout hearts, earned this Ryder Cup; with the Cup at stake, they made 51 birdies to the Americans' 44. This after trailing in birdies the first two days, 99-74.

Related: Memorable Ryder Cup celebrations

Whoever wrote this implausible story foreshadowed its end early. The fourth American out, Phil Mickelson seemed to have a critical point won only to see the Englishman Justin Rose steal it by rolling in three straight putts on the last three holes, the last two for heroic birdies.

And Rose said of his last stroke, "As soon as I holed that putt, and as soon as I came off the green, my first thought was of Seve."

There were groups behind, the story moving quickly to its end now.

"He's been an inspiration for this team all week long, and who knows, if something crazy happens today, I know that were are going to be looking upwards."

Crazy happened. Seve saw it.

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