Did Steve Stricker, who’s had more birthdays than golf has had Ryder Cups, just play in his last Team USA vs. Team Europe competition?
If so, will his lasting Ryder Cup memory be his last putt? The clutch eight-footer gave the United States hope, only to see opponent Martin Kaymer match the par-saver with a five-footer to halve the 18th hole, win the head-to-head match and secure victory for Europe.
Stricker took the collar in the 39th Ryder Cup at sunny, jam-packed Medinah Country Club, going 0-4, as Europe rallied from Sunday’s four-point deficit for a stunning 14½-13½ victory.
Or will Stricker be remembered for his high-handicapper-like first putt on No. 18 that went wide left? Or his bogey on the par-3 17th that put Kaymer 1-up in a down-the-stretch match that the United States needed to at least halve?
No player on either side was older Stricker, a captain’s pick who will be 47 when Scotland hosts the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Heck, Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal is less than a year older than Stricker.
“I don’t know,” Stricker said Sunday after he played in the penultimate match on a crushing day for him and his teammates. “This is a lot of fun. It would always be fun to be a part of it, but we’ll see. It’s too early to tell right now. I’m glad I’ve got eight weeks off right now.”
Stricker (3-7-1 in three Ryder Cups) wasn’t the only old man on Team USA.
Funky-swinging Jim Furyk, who was playing in his eighth Ryder Cup and was another hand-picked selection by captain Davis Love III, blew a one-up lead with two holes to go against Sergio Garcia, who won one-up and delivered another crushing loss to Team USA.
The 42-year-old Furyk went 1-2 at Medinah and has a career 9-17-4 Ryder Cup record. As with Stricker, this might have been Furyk’s last Ryder Cup.
Phil Mickelson is also 42 and just played in his U.S.-record ninth Ryder Cup. But energized by his playing partner, 26-year-old Keegan Bradley, Mickelson was one of the bright spots for Team USA, often looking like the Lefty of old with tight approach shots and perfectly stroked putts.
If not for Justin Rose hitting three consecutive clutch putts down the stretch Sunday to pull off a stunning 1-up win, after being down one with two holes left, Mickelson would have gone 4-0 at Medinah.
“Those are the three biggest putts I’ve ever made back-to-back in my career under pressure,” Rose said.
Mickelson’s Ryder Cup career record still stands at just 14-18-6, but the four-time major champion remains an elite player and very well could be making his 10th Ryder Cup appearance at Gleneagles.
Tiger Woods will be 40 when the Ryder Cup returns to the United States in 2016. He continues to be unspectacular in these competitions. He elicited several “Tiger roars” from the crowds, especially with his clutch tee shots on the par-3 17th on Friday and Saturday, but his 0-3-1 showing at Medinah dropped his career Ryder Cup mark to 13-17-3.
He couldn’t even finish off Francesco Molinari on the tournament’s final hole Sunday. Woods missed a 3-footer that allowed Molinari to halve the match, even though Kaymer’s clutch putt minutes earlier had made the hole moot.
What was encouraging for the United States was the play of some of its younger players. Dustin Johnson, 28, won Sunday and went 3-0, the first American to do that since Mickelson in 1995.
Bradley and 27-year-old Webb Simpson went 3-1 and 2-2, respectively. At age 35, Jason Dufner is no kid, but he was playing in his first Ryder Cup and delivered.
Dufner went 3-1, with his 2-up win over Peter Hanson Sunday pulling Team USA even at 13-13.
“We all thought it would come down to Jason Dufner,” Love said. “He played very, very well.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.