Sam Torrance: Medinah was best ever Ryder Cup
I PREDICTED last Thursday in this paper that Europe would win the Ryder Cup in Medinah by one. I even backed them with a pound or two to win ahead of the first match.
I doubt anyone, though, would have predicted the route Europe took to reach this margin of victory in what was an epic encounter.
‘Miracle of Medinah’ has already been established as the title for the 39th Ryder Cup and I cannot argue with that description. I believe we have seen the best Ryder Cup of all time. Yes, Team USA overcame a similar deficit in 1999 at Brookline to win. But they were playing with home advantage. This European team delivered a turnaround in the pressure cooker environment of an away Ryder Cup. For Ryder Cups to come, Europe can go to the well of self-belief that this victory has filled and draw on its inspiration. The seeds of belief were sown on Saturday afternoon. If either of those last two matches were lost, Europe were gone. What Ian Poulter did, birdieing the last five holes to clinch the vital point to make the overnight score 10-6, was simply incredible. The will power he displayed was frightening. Then to come out on Sunday and go two down early in his match to the US Open champion, you would excuse him for being spent from Saturday’s heroics. But Poulter refused to go quietly. He dragged himself back into the tie and displayed that indomitable spirit that could yet establish him as the greatest Ryder Cup player of all time.
There were so many great performances on Sunday, there had to be, as there was no margin for error. Special praise should go to Paul Lawrie who demolished Brandt Snedeker, the form horse in the American team having won the Fedex Cup the week before. Snedeker is also one of the best putters in the US team, arguably the most important weapon in a matchplay situation.
Justin Rose’s titanic tussle with Mickelson was also crucial in drawing level. Three great putts in the last three holes under the most exacting of conditions; playing against a US golfing icon who was backed fervently by a home crowd from tee to green, it was truly admirable how Justin finished. Right at the business end of a match, it shows the measure of Mickelson that he made a point of applauding Justin’s putts on 16 and 17. Overall, the Ryder Cup was contested in a great spirit.
With respect to the deciding match, it is worth pointing out the par putt on 18 from Martin Kaymer was not so much to retain the Ryder Cup but carried the greater pressure of a putt not to lose the Ryder Cup. I have no doubt that Tiger Woods would have closed out his match with Molinari had Kaymer halved with Stricker and I think Kaymer would have had the same thought. There would be no second chances involving the match behind. It was a huge achievement for the German, who had come into the European team with the weakest form. The moment the Ryder Cup was retained, Tiger disengaged with his match and handed a half to Molinari. It was another enigmatic Ryder Cup performance for Woods. He was last man out but failed to make a birdie all the way round.
And finally to our captain and the role he played. Jose Maria was magnificent, especially when you consider the emotion that surrounded this Ryder Cup, the first since the passing of his great friend and Ryder Cup partner Seve Ballesteros last year. A lot has been spoken and written about the spirit of Seve amongst the European team. I can only add to that sentiment. There was certainly a feeling for me that he was somehow watching this incredible match unfold. You could sense it on the course with the players, even at the closing speeches, where a huge full moon bathed the ceremony in moonlight and gave it all a magical quality.
And so we move on to Gleneagles in 2014. How can we match what has just taken place? Each Ryder Cup is different. We will have a new captain and, no doubt, some new players who will combine to create another unique drama over three days in two years’ time. This year’s Ryder Cup has cemented the competition as the most compelling in golf and I’m sure Scotland will benefit from increased interest due to the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ come 2014.
Predictions about the winner? I’ll keep them to myself just now!
• Sam Torrance, the former Ryder Cup player and captain, writes exclusively for The Scotsman today in his capacity as Caledonia Best Clubhouse Captain. Visit caledoniabest.com
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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