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Olé! Olé!
Rick Reilly
October 06, 1997
In a stunning upset in Spain, a European team led by captain Seve Ballesteros gored the U.S.
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October 06, 1997

Olé! Olé!

In a stunning upset in Spain, a European team led by captain Seve Ballesteros gored the U.S.

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In the morning better-ball matches the U.S. lost three outright and tied a fourth. The most amazing half point of the week was that of Spain's own, Olazábal and Garrido, against Lehman and Mickelson. Mickelson hit "the single greatest shot I've ever seen," in Lehman's words, on the 17th, the trick hole Seve had redesigned. (The Americans would go 1-2 there during the doubles matches. Woods never seemed to figure the hole out and even putted into the lake once.) Under serious Gs of pressure, Mickelson hit a two-iron out of the rough from 239 yards to within six feet of the jar. An eagle here would put the U.S. one up with one to play. Then Mickelson blew the putt, his second spirit breaker in two days. "Pienso que más a la derecha, pero no," Mickelson said, to the delight of the Spanish interpreter. (He meant, "I thought it would break more to the right, but no.")

Garrido, meanwhile, hit his second shot into the steep, fake-Augusta 13th back bunker, which nobody had gotten up and down from all week. Garrido got up and down. "Maybe the second-greatest shot I've ever seen," said Lehman.

On to 18, all tied. Olazábal hit his drive into the trees and onto a bed of bark chips. He dropped from the chips. Seve was there, of course, wondering what club he was going to hit. "Seis," said Olazábal.

"Siete," said Seve.

"Seis."

"Siete."

Ollie hit siete into the front-right bunker. Then he knocked the ball out of the bunker to 18 feet and drained it for a half point, followed by one of the loudest and most hair-straightening roars that have been heard in the Andalusian hills. Ollie not only made a barkie, a chippie, a droppie and a sandie, but he also survived a Seve, which ought to be worth an Emmy.

The point is, that's the way the whole day went. The Europeans played as if their houses were in the pot. By nightfall Europe led 9-4, which in a Ryder Cup is like saying Dallas 52, Buffalo 7 halfway through the third quarter. There were 15 matches left, in which the Americans would need to score 10½ points. In other words, they were slightly more dead than Franco.

Still the U.S. came out on Sunday and promptly started fighting some serious windmills. Lehman, Mickelson, Fred Couples, Jeff Maggert and Mark O'Meara all won going away, in some of the most sensational singles performances in recent Ryder Cup history. But Love lost to Sweden's Per-Ulrik Johansson in a shocker, and Tiger lost to Italian Ice, and then Faxon missed a 10-footer to stay alive against Langer, and it all ended right there at 17—where else?—as the Europeans clinched at least a tie to retain the Cup.

Your MVG (Most Visible Goat) was Love, in a landslide. "Look at the board," he said. "If Tiger and I win our matches, the Cup's ours." In fact, the three Americans who won majors this year—Leonard, Love and Woods—went a combined 1-9-3 in Spain.

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