There will be plenty of time for second-guessing Davis Love III (making Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk captain’s picks and sitting the sizzling duo of Keegan Bradley/Phil Mickelson in Saturday’s afternoon session come immediately to mind), but Europe -- and in particular, Ian Poulter -- deserved to do to the U.S. Ryder Cup team what the Americans did to them in Brookline in 1999.
Europe completed an improbable, epic comeback from four points down to hand the United States its fifth loss in the last seven Ryder Cup events. Martin Kaymer landed the knockout blow, defeating Stricker, 1-up, on Sunday, and when Tiger Woods (0-3-1 in the tourney) missed a four-foot putt on his final hole, the Euros closed out the Americans, 14.5-13.5.
But it was Ian Poulter and his inspired play on Saturday afternoon who infused his team with the belief that they could actually come back from what appeared to be an insurmountable 10-6 deficit and retain the cup for Europe. An American implosion -- from Brandt Snedeker’s 5&3 meltdown to Paul Lawrie on Sunday, to Furyk and Stricker’s monumentally poor putting -- certainly did the trick for the visitors.
But it was Poulter who drilled five straight birdies to finish his Saturday four-ball and palpably shift the tenor of the tournament heading into the finale.
“Friday night we were despondent,” European Graeme McDowell said about being down 5-3 after the first day. “Last night was different, that little bit of momentum that just clicked in our favor -- Ian and Rory [McIlroy] birdying the last six holes to win their point, little things, Stricker missing on the last green.
“Little things starting to happen to Team Europe and we just felt something was in the air when the singles draw came out today,” McDowell said, “It couldn’t have worked any better for us in the match-ups....We felt that if we got off to a fast start that maybe we could do this.”
The late Seve Ballesteros was the inspiration for the first Ryder Cup team to take the field since the Spaniard’s death, and he was never far from the minds of captain Jose Maria Olazabal and his squad. But Poulter was clearly the heart and soul of the European 12.
Luke Donald led the European charge on Sunday with an opening 2&1 win over Bubba Watson, who was never in the match, and gave it up for Poulter on Saturday night.
Europe needed 14 points to keep the cup; they won 8.5 on Sunday and completed the largest comeback on foreign soil in Ryder Cup history. The U.S. came from behind on its home field at The Country Club 12 years ago.
Sunday night, after stunning into silence the Chicago crowd that had so lustily roared for the home team, an emotional Poulter (4-0-0 for the week) struggled to make sense of what had just transpired.
“This is a world-class team and we’ve been outplayed in the start of this week,” Poulter told Golf Channel. “It’s never over; if you can just be within a few points funny things happen ... a team last night that actually believed we could go out there and win.
“I don’t know what to say -- it's a special moment. The guys last night -- just to be in that team room...there was something in there ... the atmosphere was like we had a two-point lead,” Poulter said.
“An historic day, it’s just simply unbelievable. I mean we’re four points down; you’re not going to turn around and say your going to go out there and win, but we were at that level chance and that tiny little glimmer of light ... It was enough for us to bring it home.”
Ole ole ole.