The Reasons The U.S. Lost
September 29, 2012
Captain's picks that backfired
Jim Furyk was tabbed for his experience, Steve Stricker for his compatibility with Tiger Woods. How'd that work out? Furyk capped a season filled with Sunday disasters by collapsing late against Sergio Garcia, while Stricker went 0-3 alongside Woods, then was nipped down the stretch by Martin Kaymer in what ended up as the decisive match. Throw in a 1-2 week by FedEx Cup champ Brandt Snedeker, and even with Dustin Johnson going 3-0, Davis Love's captain's picks went 5-8 at Medinah.
Questionable lineup decisions
When the U.S. carried a 10-6 lead into the final day, Davis Love III appeared to be pressing many of the right buttons. Sunday painted a different picture. Not only did Love bench his star combination of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson on Saturday afternoon (the plan was to keep them fresh for Sunday, but both lost anyway), he regrettably stuck with the pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker when it clearly wasn't working. One could even bring into question Love's decision to plug Stricker into the crucial 11th spot on Sunday when the veteran was clearly struggling. Perhaps Love thought by then the Ryder Cup would long be over, but if that was the case, why did he put Tiger Woods last?
A Toothless Tiger
Woods played better than his 0-3-1 record might suggest, but his performance was a letdown to a team that looks to feed off a player of his stature. Woods was brilliant in his two four-ball matches, but it ended up being too little, too late. His poor play off the tee even earned him first-ever seat on the bench for the second foursomes session -- something that would have been unimaginable when he was on top of the golf world. As was the case in Woods' Ryder Cup debut in 1997 when he went 1-3-1, his record becomes subject to even more scrutiny since the U.S. lost by a single point. Fair or not, he's always going to be the player with the biggest spotlight on him and thus, the guy who takes the Tiger, um, lion's share of the blame.
A Possessed Ian Poulter
One of Jose Maria Olazabal's two captain's picks, Poulter etched his name into Ryder Cup lore with his showing at Medinah. Sure, the 4-0 record was special (his career record of 12-3 is now the best winning percentage in the history of anyone playing that many matches), but even more amazing was his stunning string of five-straight birdies to close out Saturday and lift partner Rory McIlroy to an improbable 1-up win when the European team was on life support. Poulter's individual effort ignited a Sunday filled with more incredible individual efforts. Seve Ballesteros is getting credit for inspiring this historic comeback from above, but Poulter was the team's spark plug on the ground.
History will treat this as one giant collapse, but the Americans had more than their share of chances to make Sunday's outcome different. In almost every instance, they failed. In three different matches on the final day, a U.S. player lost both the 17th and 18th hole to lose his match, most notably Jim Furyk, who bogeyed the final two holes to fall to Sergio Garcia. And of the six Sunday matches that were decided on No. 18, only Jason Dufner ended up earning a full point. For the week, it wasn't much better for the U.S., which only went 3-9-1 in matches that went the distance.
Unlikely European contributors
Unlikely European contributors: It's not enough for a team's best players to shine. You also need points from unlikely places. That happened in a number of spots for Europe, starting with the rookie Nicolas Colsaerts shooting 10 under on his own ball in a tone-setting four-ball against Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker on Friday. But it was most apparent on Sunday. Paul Lawrie and Lee Westwood were winless through the first two days and yet both captured huge points in their singles matches. And then there was Martin Kaymer, a player who had struggled so badly in 2012 that there were whispers he was considering giving up his spot on the team. Instead, after losing his only other match of the week, Kaymer came up huge in his match against Steve Stricker, eventually nailing the six-footer for par that clinched the Ryder Cup for Europe.
Larger Forces At Work
There were bigger forces at work: Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, the key for the Europeans is that THEY believed it. Whether it was the constant references in the team room, skywriting above, or the patches on their shirts and bags, the Europeans felt the presence of Seve Ballesteros all week. And although they entered Sunday down four points, they played their singles match as if they had more than momentum on their side.