Monday, October 4, 2010

The Putt Heard Round the World

After four rainy days and with 27 of 28 matches already in the books, the scoreboard read 13.5 U.S., 13.5 Europe.

It all came down to the anchor match: Hunter Mahan vs. Graeme McDowell.

McDowell was one up with three to play but had a country's worth of momentum going against him. The U.S. was in the midst of a frenzied comeback; Mickelson, Woods, Zach and Dustin Johnson all put together dominant wins and Rickie Fowler had just completed an unbelievable stretch of 4 birdies on the closing holes to go from 4 down to halve the match.

So as McDowell stood over a 15-footer on 16, there was a tension and apprehension in the crowd at Celtic Manor that no one would have anticipated 24 hours earlier. Yesterday the Euros nearly swept the Americans. Today though, the Americans were on fire; six wins, two halves, and only three losses in the first 11 matches.

But the U.S. Open Champs nerves of steel prevailed. With ever the slightest stroke, he started the ball down a line that led him to victory. As the ball approached the hole, it looked as if it would miss low and left. Americans, myself included, got ready to celebrate. But at the very last moment, the ball caught the edge of the hole. It looped around as if to taunt Hunter Mahan, Corey Pavin, and the rest of the American TV audience. And then, with its victory lap complete, the ball fell to the bottom of the cup.

Sure Mahan had a chance after that. He was two down, with two to play. But after McDowell's putt fell, the wind left his sails. His flubbed chip on 17 should be all the evidence you need. It was over. No magical comeback. No celebration or immortalization for Mahan. And no Ryder Cup for America.

But thanks to the Monday morning singles drama, the 2010 Ryder Cup will no longer be remembered for the horrendous weather and faulty rain gear; instead we will remember the ascension of Rickie Fowler, the redemption of Tiger Woods, and the dominance of Lee Westwood. And we will remember that even in the pouring rain, the Ryder Cup is the most exciting and dramatic event in golf.

So a few congratulations are in order for the European Team:

First to Colin Montgomerie. Colin you somehow managed to pull this one off. Your Captain's picks performed well (minus Paddy) and your pairings were spot on. After a mediocre first day, you got your men ready for battle, and routed the Americans on day two. Your experience and leadership helped right the ship, and lead team Europe to victory. Bravo, old man.

To the foundation of the European team, Lee Westwood. You proved that you are the best player in the world today. You deserve the number one ranking.

To Padraig Harrington, you played well enough not to lose the cup all by yourself. That's better than was expected.

To Ross Fisher, you are the best golfer that no one has ever heard of. Come play in the U.S. more and make some cash.

To Luke Donald, you proved that you don’t need to hit the ball a mile to be a great golfer. All the pipsqueaks out there have you to thank for that. (JP I’m looking at you)

And to Celtic Manor. The course was stunning, even in the rain. Challenging but fair. Exciting, birdie-able, and penal, all at the same time. To the Celtic Manor staff, congrats on a hard week's work. You put up a valiant fight against Mother Nature.

I will be the first to say that the results were disappointing, maybe the second after Hunter Mahan. But it was quite a journey Ryder Cup 2010. Bravo.

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