Europe’s brave fightback brings home Ryder Cup for Ballesteros

An inspired European team dramatically won the Ryder Cup last night after a momentous and historic fightback.

Dressed in the blue of the late Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal’s European team burst into life on a dramatic day of singles and matched the joint-biggest comeback in Ryder Cup history.

They silenced Medinah by winning eight of the 12 singles matches yesterday to deny the United States what would have been only their second win this century.

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In the first Ryder Cup since the death of the great Ballesteros, Olazabal’s heroes retained the Cup when Martin Kaymer defeated Steve Stricker and won it when Tiger Woods conceded the 18th hole to Francesco Molinari, and with it a half. Europe won 
14.5-13.5 to win for only the fourth time on American soil.

Trailing 10-6 going into the singles, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie won the top five matches to give Europe hope and frighten the life out of the Americans. But Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson responded with victories before Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia put Europe to within one point of retaining the Cup.

Jason Dufner then levelled the match at 13-13, turning all the focus onto the final two matches.

Martin Kaymer won the 17th against Steve Stricker and then had the honour of stroking home the putt that retained the Ryder Cup on the 18th, before Molinari halved with Woods.

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Donald struck the first blow for Europe as the visitors attempted to match the record turnaround the United States achieved at Brookline in 1999. Donald’s 2&1 win over Bubba Watson could have been even more emphatic with the former world No 1 missing from five feet for an eagle to win 6&4. Watson then won his first hole of the match on the 15th and chipped in for birdie on the 16th for good measure, but Donald closed it out with a superb bunker shot on the 17th.

“It was a big honour for me that Ollie had enough trust in me to go out and get that first point,” said Donald.

“That means a lot and I did what I had to do.

“It certainly helped having some local support. It wasn’t totally going Bubba’s way - I felt a lot of love from the crowd.”

Lawrie closed the door in style with a superb pitch to four feet on the 15th and, when Brandt Snedeker hit a poor chip and was unable to make a birdie, the putt was conceded.

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That meant a 5&3 win for Lawrie and took the overall match score to 10-8, Europe having taken the last four points available after trailing 10-4 on Saturday afternoon.

McIlroy endured a chaotic start to his match with Keegan Bradley, but eventually prevailed 2&1.

McIlroy had seemingly been confused by American time zones, with television coverage listing his start time at 12.25pm. However, that referred to Eastern Standard Time (EST), which is 11.25am Central Time (CT).

“I was just casually strolling out of my hotel room when I got a phone call saying you have 25 minutes,” said McIlroy.

“I have never been so worried driving to the course.

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“Luckily there was a State Trooper outside who gave me the escort, if not I would not have made it on time.”

Two minutes late and he would have forfeited the opening hole against Keegan Bradley, five minutes late and he faced disqualification, but to the relief of every

European he arrived in an unmarked car with 10 minutes to go.

Former captain Colin 
Montgomerie, whose side had the advantage of staying on site for their win at Celtic Manor in 2010, said: “That is absolutely ridiculous at this level. It’s quite unbelievable for the world No 1 golfer. How this happened I do not know.

“Where is the captain? Where are the vice-captains? Where is his caddie?”

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Fortunately for McIlroy, he is not a player who needs to spend hours on the range and after a quick warm-up on the putting green, he went out and beat Bradley – who had won all three of his matches with Phil Mickelson this week – 2&1. Asked how soon he calmed down, McIlroy added: “As soon as I got here. If I warm up for 40 minutes it’s a long time anyway. I warmed up for 25 minutes before I won the (US) PGA this year. It was nearly a good thing because I did not have to think about it too much.”

Poulter, who was Europe’s star player all week, completed a 100 per cent return from his four games when he defeated US Open champion Webb Simpson, having only taken the lead on the 17th hole.

Rose confirmed victories in the top five matches for Europe when he came from one hole down with two to play to defeat a gracious Mickelson, who could do nothing to stop Rose as the Englishman birdied the last two holes to win the match.

It all set up a dramatic and unforgettable day for European golf.