Sunday's Birdies and Bogeys
September 29, 2012
Birdie: Ian Poulter
Poulter's inspirational play late Saturday gave Europe its glimmer of hope. His play on Sunday made winning an actual possibility. Despite never leading until the 17th hole, the Englishman won his match against Webb Simpson to cap a brilliant 4-0 week for the captain's pick. It also improved his overall Ryder Cup record to a staggering 12-3 -- the best of any golfer who has played that many matches in the biennial event.
Birdie: Martin Kaymer
Twenty-one years after his idol and fellow countryman Bernhard Langer missed a five-foot putt that would have retained the Ryder Cup for Europe, the 27-year-old German faced a nearly-identical situation. This time, the putt went down to cap an incredible comeback by the Europeans. More amazing was that it was Kaymer, who had struggled in 2012 more than any player at Medinah this week and who had lost in his only previous match, who wound up sinking the decisive puttt. He may not be the world's top-ranked player anymore, but his confidence after clinching the Cup for an entire continent might be at an all-time high.
Bogey: Jim Furyk
Furyk's selection as a captain's pick was already a question mark given his notable late collapses at the U.S. Open and Firestone. But even those losses didn't have the ripple effect of his Sunday stumble at Medinah. One-up over Sergio Garcia with two holes to play, Furyk bogeyed 17 then three-putted on 18 to lose outright. It wasn't the decisive point on Sunday, but it was likely the most damning.
Birdie: Ryder Cup Pressure
Medinah's made-for-scoring conditions produced plenty of red numbers all week, but the magnitude of this event -- in particular on Sunday -- showed up with the occasional stunning display of bad golf. On the par-3 eighth hole, Webb Simpson hit a full shank that drew gasps from the crowd. Then there was Nicolas Colsaerts, who hit the par-5 10th in two only to four-putt to lose a pivotal hole in his match with Dustin Johnson. And of course, there was Jim Furyk's bogey-bogey finish.
Birdie: José María Olazábal
From his emotional speech at the opening ceremony, to the class he showed in calming down the European fans moments after his team had pulled off a monumental comeback, the Spaniard proved to be a great leader. He scolded his team Friday night for its poor play, but also inspired them Saturday night by invoking the spirit of fellow countryman Seve Ballesteros. He also pushed all the right buttons on Sunday, as the first five players he put out on the course won their matches, leading to a historic comeback.
Bogey: Steve Stricker
After lipping out a five-footer on No. 18 that would have given the U.S. an even bigger lead heading into Sunday, it didn't seem like things could get much worse for the 45-year-old. Wrong. This time, a lipped-out putt from a similar distance on the penultimate hole in the penultimate match turned out to be the difference. The short miss for the usually-reliable putter allowed Martin Kaymer -- considered Team Europe's weakest link -- to take the lead in a match he would win to retain the Ryder Cup for his side. It also meant Stricker (0-4) was the only one of the 24 players at Medinah to get blanked in points.
Bogey: Rory McIlroy
With all of the painstaking preparation that goes into the Ryder Cup, there's no way a player could ever get a tee time wrong, is there? At least that's what we thought. In a sequence not far removed from a "Seinfeld" episode, McIlroy said he mixed up Central and Eastern time, and suddenly needed a police escort to get to the golf course with only a few minutes to spare before his match against Keegan Bradley. After a few putts, an energy bar, and a quick hug with captain José María Olazábal, McIlroy headed out as if he had been at the course for hours. But he likely gave his captain and the rest of his team an ulcer in the process.
Birdie: Rory McIlroy
Warm-up? Who needs a warm-up? However hasty his trip to the golf course, McIlroy was hardly frazzled once he was there. In holding off the breakout U.S. star Keegan Bradley 2 and 1, McIlroy was able to redeem himself after a lackluster start to his second Ryder Cup, and help propel the Europeans to a monumental comeback.
Biridie: Keegan Bradley
Even before the 26-year-old hit a shot on Sunday, he had already established himself as the American star for these matches in Medinah. Bradley's play the first two days was only surpassed by his spirit, as he and partner Phil Mickelson won all three of their matches in convincing fashion. He didn't get the job done on Sunday for the U.S., but he certainly wasn't alone. Bradley proved again that he loves playing in the big spot and it appears he could play the Sergio Garcia-Ian Poulter role of team spark plug for the Americans for years to come.
Birdie: Luke Donald
As Europe's leadoff hitter, Luke Donald knew his match against Bubba Watson was about more than a single point, but also the tone it could set for a team looking to generate early momentum. The former world No. 1 delivered by holding off a late charge from the Masters champion, giving Europe its first point, 2 and 1. "That was a big honor for me," Donald said of José María Olazábal's decision to send him out first. "I did what I had to do."
Birdie: Dustin Johnson
With his singles win over fellow bomber Nicolas Colsaerts, Johnson justified his selection as a captain's pick by becaming the first American to go 3-0 at a Ryder Cup since Phil Mickelson in 1995. But in collecting the first U.S. point on Sunday, he also provided the U.S. a needed boost after they had dropped the first five matches of the day. The fact that it wasn't enough was hardly Johnson's fault.
Bogey: Davis Love III
Love's reign as captain had been defined by understated grace, but in the wake of Europe's miracle Sunday, we're left to examine a few moves that backfired. There was the wildcard selection of veterans Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, who went a combined 1-6 and who both lost their Sunday singles match in devastating fashion. And there was also the questionable benching of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson after the pair rolled through their first three opponents. A made U.S. putt here or there and we'd all be praising Love's deft touch. Instead his team will go down in history for all the wrong reasons.
For weeks leading up to this event, we heard how Medinah CC's No. 3 course would be set up for exciting golf. It delivered, most notably late Saturday afternoon -- a stretch of golf that TV commentator and former Ryder Cupper David Feherty called among the best he's ever seen. Virtually no rough, pure greens and perfect weather conditions in this event's first trip to Chicago all added up to a birdie-fest enjoyed by fans, both on the grounds and watching at home.