The Rowdy Ryder Cup at Kiawah
Continued (page 6 of 9)
Mark Calcavecchia: Monty had already hit it in the water. There was a howling left-to-right wind, which is the worst wind for me because I hit a fade. I don't know what happened on the shot. I smothered it, a diving topspin slice. It deserved everything that was said about it. Johnny Miller said it was the worst pressure shot he'd ever seen. [Charlie Jones' call for NBC as the 2-iron shot skipped into the water: "Are you kidding me?" Added Johnny Miller: "It had about two seconds' hang time." Golf World wrote that the shot "looked like a sick pelican looking for lunch."] The key there, the thing nobody remembers, is my missing a two-footer for double bogey that would have won the match. That was brutal. Every golfer has their bugaboo, a shot they screw up more than any other. For me, it's always been short putts. The miss at 17 has stayed with me forever. Even today, when I have important short putts, I think of them differently than I did before Kiawah. The 17th stunk, but even on 18, I hit two good shots, a good drive and then a smoked 3-iron that was right at the flagstick. To this day I can hear Ray Floyd shouting, "What a shot, Calc!" like it was dead perfect. But it went a little long, and I didn't get up and down. [Montgomerie's par halved the match.] To be honest, I didn't feel the wheels falling off until it was all over. I just knew that half a point was going to cost us the Ryder Cup. It was too much for me to handle. I cracked up.
Roger Maltbie [NBC]: I was sent to get a word with Mark. I found him in the television compound, with Peter Kostis, his coach and mine at the time. As soon as I walked in, I knew Mark was in no condition to say anything. He was crying almost hysterically. His eyes were very swollen, and Peter told me he had been physically sick. I'm not a mental-health expert, and I don't know what a nervous breakdown is, but it was pretty obvious that Calc had had just about all the stress he could cope with. I left right away and went back to the NBC production truck. The then-executive producer of NBC Sports, Terry O'Neil, was there. I told him I had found Mark but that he was in no condition to talk. He snapped at me. "Stay with him," he said. "He'll talk." Now, I was still thinking like a player back then. I told him I thought it would be intrusive to go back, and that it wasn't the right time. Anyway, Mark Rolfing had a few words with Mark much later. He was feeling a bit better after the U.S. team won.
Mark Calcavecchia: I did not throw up. I felt like it, though.
THE FINAL MATCH
Lanny Wadkins: Dave put Hale out last with me right in front of him, and it proved to be a smart move. The way our scores and those of Mark James and Langer worked, if the order had been reversed, we would have lost one match and won the other. And Europe would have kept the cup.
Hale Irwin: Dave came to me the night before and asked if I cared where I was positioned. I told him it didn't matter to me at all, that he should put me where he could best use me.
Corey Pavin [a 2-and-1 winner over Steven Richardson]: Fans see the leaders on TV every week when they're playing great, and they sort of assume that players are at the top of their games at the Ryder Cup. That definitely is not the case. When someone is struggling a little, and you put Ryder Cup pressure on it, it magnifies their struggle and makes it a hundred times harder. That was the case with Hale on the back nine. His game was good but not great, and he was desperately trying to hold it together.
Hale Irwin: I wasn't playing particularly well, and I'm playing Bernhard Langer, one of the toughest players of all time. As the day went on, it got more and more intense. It was an accumulation of things. The roars of the galleries were monstrous, but we couldn't tell who they were for. The sand dunes obscured what scoreboards there were, so I didn't know the score. It was a little like playing in the dark. Then our teammates and wives, and the galleries who'd been watching the other matches, all converged on us. I kept hearing "U-S-A! U-S-A!" and I couldn't breathe or swallow. By 12, I could hardly hit the ball. Coming home, Bernhard started chipping away. [Langer double-bogeyed the 14th to go 2 down but won the 15th with a par and made a six-foot par-saving putt to halve the 16th hole.]
Bernhard Langer: It wasn't just the pressure of the last hole. It was the last three or four holes. It was clear by then that it was coming down to my match. The point is, there was an hour or so of great pressure.
Pete Dye: It was unbelievable. During the practice rounds the weather was in the 80s, and the wind was out of the southeast. Next morning, it dropped to 55, and the wind came strong out of the northwest--20 knots--and it stayed that way most of the week. Instead of a 6- or 7-iron, Hale Irwin hit a wood to the 17th green on the final day.