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posted: 10/2/2012 7:21 PM

Despite loss, great week for USA golf, Ryder Cup

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  • Europe's Martin Kaymer celebrating his Ryder Cup-winning putt Sunday was just one of the many memories for a special weekend at Medinah Country Club.

      Europe's Martin Kaymer celebrating his Ryder Cup-winning putt Sunday was just one of the many memories for a special weekend at Medinah Country Club.
    Associated Press

 
 

Let's face it, going into the Ryder Cup I didn't think Team USA had much of a chance.

The reality is Europe traditionally makes putts in the Ryder Cup on Sunday and the U.S. doesn't.

Well, I guess I was right and wrong. Yes, the U.S. didn't make putts on Sunday when it had to, but the Americans had much more than a chance.

Team USA should have won the Ryder Cup. A single clutch putt from Steve Stricker or Jim Furyk and it would have been an American victory.

And had they won, the story this week wouldn't be about the worst collapse -- or the greatest comeback -- in Ryder Cup history. It would be about the changing of the guard and the extraordinary young talent coming up through the American ranks.

It would be about rookie Keegan Bradley, who became the American version of Ian Poulter, full of passion, distraction and excellence. The U.S. could use more of that.

Players like Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar showed no fear and seemed to thrive on the extreme pressure and team format.

U.S. players in their first or second appearance on the team went 16-9, suggesting the future is bright for Team USA.

And no longer can it be said that American players don't care about the Ryder Cup, for if you had seen them on and around the 18th green after Europe won, or in the interview room or closing ceremonies, you would understand how truly hurt and disgusted they were with losing.

The biggest winner over a splendid week at Medinah was golf. The Ryder Cup will continue to grow in spectacle, American golf will prosper, and Medinah -- which shined like a star -- will certainly be in the rotation for another major, and possibly Ryder Cup, in the decade to come.

For many in attendance, it was the single greatest sporting event they have ever attended, and the amazing finish only made it that much more astonishing.

As for Chicago sports fans, you have showed the world once again that you are the very best.

"I'm proud that Chicago is my home," said Luke Donald. "I don't know if anyone could ever do it better than this."

It was the greatest Ryder Cup of all time, and its memories will serve a lifetime.

The pressure

Justin Rose said there is nothing that can prepare a golfer for the magnitude of the Ryder Cup.

"I was shaking on 18 before I made my putt. I've never felt that before," Rose said Sunday. "It's so much bigger than you, and it transcends golf, and that's why it's such a monumental thing when you lose.

"As bad as it sounds, you learn to lose in golf. I mean, you play 25 tournaments a year and you might win one, so you lose a lot. But when you lose here, you lose for your team and a continent. You feel that weight on every shot."

The captain

For all the criticism he now faces, Davis Love also manufactured Medinah into the best home-course advantage ever, leading to that huge 10-4 advantage midway through Saturday afternoon.

With length, no rough and fast greens, it was tailored for the Americans. Look for Europe to do the same for their boys in two years.

Moment in time

There were hundreds of memories to take from the Ryder Cup, but standing behind the 16th green Sunday and seeing Steve Stricker stare at the leaderboard and shake his head stands out.

Both Stricker and Martin Kaymer had 7-foot par putts awaiting, but with Kaymer away, Stricker looked up and down the scoreboard until he realized it was all coming down to his match and Tiger Woods' game behind him.

Kaymer and Stricker both made their putts on 16, but Stricker missed an easy one on 17, Kaymer took the lead, and that was the tournament.

The dream

The golf world came within a 5-foot par putt from Steve Stricker on 17 Sunday of having Tiger Woods determine the Ryder Cup on the 18th hole, on a home course where he has won two majors, in front of a hugely pro-Tiger crowd.

For about 20 minutes it appeared as though that would be the case. Talk about unimaginable drama, it might have been the biggest moment in golf history.

The gallery

While the intimidation may be gone, Tiger Woods' aura has not diminished one iota among his teammates, competitors or fans.

When he made those runs late Friday -- when he was the best player on the course in the afternoon -- and Saturday, with teammates and Euros walking the holes and surrounding the greens, they were no less in awe than they've ever been, with frequent comments along the lines of, "Only Tiger makes that shot," and, "Tiger's on fire, get out of the way."

We can't print much of their reaction.

As for the crowd, the fact is there are roars for great shots and screams for magical putts, but there is still no noise in golf that compares to a Woods dart or a Woods putt.

There's just no comparison.

The fans

Speaking of noise, one of the greatest scenes ever was Bubba Watson whipping up the crowd and asking them to get loud during his opening tee shots. It felt for a moment like Chicago Stadium as Denis Savard was quarterbacking the power play.

Another was Tiger Woods stepping onto the tee at the par-3 17th Sunday when it appeared as though it might mean the Cup. It was like a slugger walking toward the batter's box to a standing ovation.

That 17th hole gallery was sensational all week.

Closing time

Throughout the last 20 years of Ryder Cup history, the last two holes have crushed Team USA. On Sunday alone, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk had 1-up leads on 17 tee and lost their matches, Steve Stricker bogeyed 17 and lost by 1 to Martin Kaymer, and Ian Poulter birdied 18 to win 2-up over Webb Simpson.

The ratings

NBC reports that singles ratings saw a 71 percent jump over 2010 and were the highest since Brookline in 1999.

The presidents

Not only were Nos. 41 and 43 on the course Saturday, but President Clinton called Davis Love on Saturday night from Italy to voice his support.

Best chant

From the U.S. fans, sung to "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole," to a Team Europe player when a U.S. player stuck his ball close: "Away, Away, Away, Away."

The quote

Luke Donald, on the fast greens: "We were caught off guard a little bit on Friday. They rolled them and didn't let us know."

And finally

Jose Maria Olazabal: "No matter who won at the end, that's probably the finest golf tournament in the history of our game. History will decide, but I think history will be on this side."

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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