Medinah miracle: europe’s great escape

Davis Love III’s American side dominated the first two days, roared on by a partisan and raucous home crowd. Love’s decision to pair Ryder Cup rookie Keegan Bradley with Phil Mickelson proved inspired; the duo won all three of their matches, including a 7&6 drubbing of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. Prior to Medinah, Mickelson possessed a dreadful record in the competition, having accumulated more losses than any American in the event’s history. In Bradley, Love seemed to have finally found a partner who complements the mercurial, but at times mentally fragile, left-hander.

In contrast to the all-conquering Mickelson and Bradley pairing, Tiger Woods lost all three of his matches alongside Steve Stricker. The 14 times major champion once again failed to deliver at golf’s showcase event, despite having his best season since details of his marital “transgressions” emerged. Even with the former world number one’s poor form, the Americans entered Sunday holding a 10-6 lead.

Ian Poulter gave the Europeans faint hope late on Saturday, recording five consecutive birdies to salvage a point alongside Rory McIlroy on Saturday evening. Much like the late Seve Ballesteros, the extravagant Englishman appears to thrive under the unique pressure the competition creates, marking himself out as a likely future captain. Despite Poulter’s heroics, a European victory appeared no more than a remote possibility, going into Sunday’s singles matches.  

European captain José María Olazábal then sent Poulter, Donald and McIlroy out first on Sunday in an effort to quickly reduce the arrears and heap pressure on an American side containing four rookies. The triumvirate all won their matches, as McIlroy handed Bradley his first defeat and Poulter maintained his undefeated record with his victory over Webb Simpson. McIlroy, who had largely underwhelmed at Medinah, recaptured his form to dispatch the in-form American 2&1.

Victory at Medinah caps a remarkable year for the Northern Irishman, winning his second major and topping the PGA tour’s money list, as well as only just losing out to American team-member Brandt Snedeker in the FedEx Cup. his countryman, Graeme McDowell, has endured an indifferent season and was comprehensively outplayed by Zach Johnson on Sunday, ultimately succumbing 2&1. The partnership between himself and McIlroy failed to ignite, with the pair only collecting a solitary point from their three contests. 

Ryder Cup stalwarts, Westwood and Sergio Garcia, each recorded singles victories to give Europe the lead late on, as it increasingly seemed that Europe could achieve the impossible. Following Jason Duffner’s victory over Peter Hanson, the competition was poised at 13-13 with only two matches remaining on the course. In the penultimate match, Martin Kaymer defeated Steve Stricker on the 18th hole, to ensure Europe would retain the trophy. Woods then inexplicably missed from five feet on the same hole, to hand Italian Francesco Molinari an unlikely half point and Olazábal’s team victory. Woods’s performance in Chicago will prompt renewed questioning of his commitment to the competition, collecting a mere half point from his four matches.

The triumph represents the biggest comeback in the event since the United States overturned a 10-6 deficit at Brookline in 1999. That match was marred by the American team’s invasion of the green, during Olazábal’s match against Justin Leonard. At the side of this 18th green, the European captain’s thoughts turned to his close friend and compatriot, Seve, who died from a brain tumour last year. “I think he is proud”.