SI Vault
 
The Rise And Fall
Alan Shipnuck
October 08, 2012
The finish to this Ryder Cup was so riveting, it is sure to overshadow most of what came before. The greatest European comeback in the event's history climaxed on Sunday evening, but the victory—or put another way, the U.S.'s collapse—was three long days in the making. Every hole at the Ryder Cup is a tournament within a tournament, every half point is monumental, but sometimes the importance is obvious only in hindsight. Here is SI's definitive guide to the 39th Ryder Cup.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 08, 2012

The Rise And Fall

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5

BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE: Kaymer. Now this looked like the guy who won the 2010 PGA Championship and made it to No. 1 in the world. Kaymer controlled his ball beautifully and made a handful of game-changing putts, delivering down the stretch under the most extreme pressure. Said Kaymer, "On 16, Ollie came up to me and said, 'We need this point. We have to have it.' I already knew how much it meant. I was already nervous, and that didn't really help." That Kaymer came through is all the more impressive because he had been benched for both sessions the day before. So was Peter Hanson, who said, "We were both shattered, but Martin very quickly put it behind him. He had a great attitude about it, definitely better than me. And I think that helped him today."

BEST SHOT: Rory from way left of the 11th green. Short-sided, he bumped a low-spinning pitch into the bank, killing it on the slope and letting it trickle to within five feet. Then he buried the par putt for the best up and down of the week, retaining a 1-up lead over the previously unbeatable Keegan Bradley. McIlroy's 2-and-1 victory—after not getting to warm up because he was confused about his tee time—will only burnish his legend.

WORST SHOT: Phil Mickelson's three-quarter eight-iron from 161 yards on the 18th hole. He misjudged the wind, and his adrenaline, jacking his approach shot over the green, which was dead.

BEST PUTT: Mickelson was all square playing 18 only because of Rose's closing heroics in what he called a "ding-dong match." Rose got up and down on 15 from a plugged lie in the bunker and then topped Mickelson's mid-range par putt on 16 with one of his own. On 17, after Phil missed chipping in for birdie by thismuch, Rose enjoyed this Cup's Justin Leonard moment, burying a 40-footer to win the hole and square the match. His closed-fist he-man pose in celebration was an instant classic.

WORST PUTT: Stricker was brought in to make putts. That didn't work out so well. All square with Kaymer playing the par-3 17th, Stricker was just off the back of the putting surface and had plenty of green for his straightforward chip. He clanked it eight feet by. Straight uphill, it was the kind of putt Stricker has made a million times. If he holes the putt, who knows if Kaymer would have made his own subsequent par attempt, a downhill five-footer? But Stricker put a feeble stroke on it and missed, Kaymer drilled his, and this Ryder Cup tipped inexorably toward Europe.

ACT OF GAMESMANSHIP: There were a few at the chaotic end to the day's last match. Tiger was 1 up on the Italian stallion Francesco Molinari on the 18th fairway when Kaymer closed out Stricker up ahead, making the score 14--13 and guaranteeing Europe would keep Samuel Ryder's little gold trophy. European players, caddies and wives swarmed Kaymer and whooped it up on the green, forcing Woods and Molinari to wait at least five minutes for it to clear. This wasn't as bad as the infamous stampede at Brookline, but the celebration lasted way too long. Molinari didn't want a tie, he wanted an outright European victory. To Tiger it didn't matter either way—Europe was going to keep the Cup, so why not just go through the motions and get the heck out of there? With both players facing short par putts Woods told Molinari to pick up his coin. Molinari conceded nothing and forced Tiger to finish the hole. "After that all went down, my putt was useless," Woods said. "It was inconsequential. So I hit it too quick, and gave him his putt." That was a presumptuous analysis by Woods; surely some of his teammates would prefer to say they tied this Ryder Cup rather than lost it. Molinari was not out of line to keep fighting to the bitter end, but he did miss a chance at a magnanimous, Nicklausian moment. Love spoke for everyone when he called the Cup's final moments "awkward."

MOST QUESTIONABLE CAPTAIN'S DECISION: Love's choices to fill out his team. Dustin Johnson was a stud, with a 3--0 record, but Snedeker, Furyk and Stricker lost their singles matches and went a combined 2--8, including 0--4 for the 45-year-old Stricks.

WORTH REPEATING: "Not for a long time. Not ever, actually."—McIlroy, who was driven to the course by a state trooper, when asked the last time he had been in a police car

"We'll get together with the American team tonight and have a few beers. But our beer will taste better."—Lee Westwood

1 2 3 4 5