One up. Two holes to play.
That was the situation both Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk found themselves in Sunday afternoon at the Ryder Cup. Hang onto those leads and the U.S. would almost certainly claim victory at Medinah Country Club.
Somehow, though, both matches unraveled before millions of unbelieving eyes.
"The last three holes," Mickelson said, "I thought I had the match."
The first big dagger came on 17 when Lefty thought he'd holed a chip from behind the green. Charging at it like a matador, Mickelson gasped in disbelief when the ball didn't settle into the hole. Making matters worse, Justin Rose rolled in a bomb of a 35-footer to square the match.
An appreciative, clapping Mickelson looked Rose squarely in the eyes with a smile on his face that basically said, "What can you do?"
"I thought I won the match. I thought I chipped in," Mickelson said later. "I can't believe the ball didn't break that last inch in there. And after that ball didn't go in, he made that long putt. What a huge turnaround."
Then on 18, Mickelson watched in disbelief as his second shot sailed long. "Oh my God," was his reaction in the fairway. Rose's approach landed on the green and he converted the birdie to pull off a stunner.
"Those are three of the biggest putts I've ever made back-to-back in my career under pressure," said Rose, whose first huge putt came when he drained an 8-footer to halve the hole. "Over the putt on 18 I was shaking a little bit and I said to myself, 'I haven't putted well the whole week. Rosey, this is what the whole week could come down to for you. … If you make this putt, it's going to be a good week for you.'
"Coming off the (18th) green, I looked down on my sleeve (at the silhouette of Seve Ballesteros) and that's the kind of thing Seve would have done for sure."
Said captain Davis Love III: "He (Mickelson) got beat. I don't think he lost."
Furyk's match with Sergio Garcia was a dogfight all afternoon with neither of them ever gaining more than a 1-up advantage. Furyk took the lead with a birdie on 14 but bogeyed 17 and 18 and lost the match.
With just an 8-15-4 record coming into the Ryder Cup, Furyk was a controversial captain's pick. Many pundits also brought up Furyk's collapse at this year's U.S. Open when he duck hooked his tee shot on the 16th hole while leading the tournament.
Those same pundits wondered, could he close out a key match at the Ryder Cup? Turns out he couldn't and he was clearly annoyed when a reporter asked if he felt like he let his team or captain down.
"First of all, I would gather you probably haven't been on a team to ask that question," he said. "Losing the U.S. Open this year, losing Bridgestone, I'll be honest, it's been a very difficult year.
"But if you had been on a team or if you had been on this team, I've got 11 guys, I've got a captain, I've got four assistants that I know will pat me on the back; that know how I feel, understand how I feel.
"As far as team versus individual, it's the lowest point of my year."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.