For Europe’s best, this was the miracle at Medinah
Team Europe members douse Justin Rose with champagne following their stunning Ryder Cup victory over the United States Sunday at Medinah Country Club.
Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer
After witnessing an impossible ending to the Ryder Cup at Medinah Sunday, no Cubs fan should ever again claim that the team can't possibly win a World Series in their lifetime.
What we know now is that the impossible is no longer such. The unthinkable can be thought. The unimaginable can be imagined.
But if Brookline was a miracle, this must have been heaven sent because the U.S. comeback in '99, after all, occurred on American soil.
The Europeans matched that historic achievement Sunday — coming all the way back from down 10-6 to win 14˝ to 13˝ — but they did it in the U.S. and in front of the loudest, most hostile crowd in the history of golf.
Under the circumstances, not even the Europeans truly believed Saturday night that 24 hours later they would still possess the Cup.
"Honestly, no, I can't believe it," said Justin Rose, only moments after Europe's victory, while standing on the 18th green celebrating with his teammates. "Did I really think it was possible? I mean, not really.
"So many things had to be perfect for us, and the Americans are so strong."
It was nearly all perfect for Europe, which sent out its five best players to start the day and won every one of those five matches.
"If we don't get all five, it's over, and what were the chances?" Rose asked incredulously. "It's not that anyone had given up, because we hadn't, but the odds of winning 8˝ points are probably a million to one or maybe 10 million to one."
It could be argued that this was the greatest comeback in sports history, considering the pressure, the circumstances, the location, the way the U.S. team had performed for two days and the sheer number of points Europe had to get in a single day of play.
That's why the Euros were certain that the late, great Seve Ballesteros played a role in their remarkable victory. Ballesteros was the captain on the wrong end in '99 at Brookline, and current captain Jose Maria Olazabal was on the 17th green when the U.S. celebrated Justin Leonard's winning putt in that event.
"This was all Seve," said a weeping Sergio Garcia, who was also on the '99 squad. "Seve was with us the whole day and he helped us, and we did this for him."
Well, you can believe that or not, but while almost nothing went right for Team Europe for two days, on Sunday they suddenly started making every putt on greens previously considered too fast and unpredictable.
Other than Martin Kaymer's Cup-winner on the 18th against Steve Stricker, the biggest shot of the day was Rose's 40-foot birdie putt on No. 17 that shocked Phil Mickelson and squared the match before Mickelson went to pieces on 18.
Without that putt and that victory, the rest of the day doesn't happen for Europe.
"When Phil missed a 7-footer on 15, I was astonished, and it kind of gave me life," Rose said. "The bomb on 17, I just had a feeling at that point that something good was going to happen.''
While this was mostly a case of Europe playing great and winning the Ryder Cup, much more than the U.S. playing poorly and losing, it did come down to the old guys failing on the greens again, like they have so many times in the past.
And if Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk were accused of choking away a victory, missing short putt after meaningful short putt down the stretch, you would have a difficult time arguing in their favor.
Though you're not likely to see Stricker or Furyk in the Ryder Cup again unless it's as captain, they weren't the only failures. The pressure definitely got to a few American players who looked like supermen the previous two days.
"I really can't tell you what just happened," said a heartbroken Stricker, standing amid a sea of celebrating Europeans on the 18th green. "To get 3˝ points, I can't believe that. We were playing so well the last two days. I really didn't think something like this was possible."
With the Cup down to 2 matches and the U.S. needing 1˝ points, Stricker missed a short par putt on 17 that gave Kaymer the lead and — for all intents and purposes — it gave Europe the Ryder Cup.
"We had a lot of guys who played well today," said U.S. captain Davis Love. "They played well and just got beat."
Thus began the bizarre and sad scene of Europe celebrating around the 18th green, while Tiger Woods stood in the fairway for six minutes, poised to hit a shot and win a game that no longer mattered.
"I was in that situation before in 2002," Wood said. "You win or lose as a team and it's pointless to even finish."
In a marvelous show of sportsmanship — and frustration — Woods conceded 18 to Francesco Molinari, thus giving away a half point and allowing Europe to win the Cup by a point, rather than merely tie and retain.
"It was just, 'Hey, get this over with,' and congratulations to the European Team," Woods said. "They played fantastic today and they deserve the Cup."
Stricker, among the classiest athletes in the world, shook the hand of every European player he could find before grabbing his wife's hand and walking off the green.
"As great as it feels for me right now, I look at their faces and I feel bad," Rose said. "I know my friends on the other side are really hurting right now."
Stricker trudged toward the clubhouse, carrying the burden of defeat and walking a narrow path surrounded by thousands of screaming European fans. Adding to his woes, he got stuck on the stairs to a bridge that leads to the clubhouse.
Why the traffic jam? On the bridge stood Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, spraying bottles of champagne over the happy crowd below — and soaking Stricker in the process.
He waited quietly and finally made his way past the winners.
At the closing ceremonies, the Euros danced and sang, while the U.S. players looked like they would rather be anywhere else, not wanting to think about golf for a long time.
That's what happens when you lose in historic fashion, when you suffer a collapse that will go down in the history of your sport as the worst ever.
"I don't think you can blame those players on that side," McIlroy said. "I think it was just a miracle."
In the history books, divine intervention will not be listed on the leader board, but in the weeks to come such a notion may help the U.S. players sleep better.
After seeing the impossible occur on Sunday at Medinah, in the most improbable ending ever of the 39 Ryder Cups, well, that explanation is probably as good as any.
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