Inspired by the spirit of Seve Ballesteros, Europe pulled off one of the greatest comebacks on a golf course to beat the US and win the Ryder Cup by 14.5 points to 13.5 on Sunday.
Needing to claim eight points in the concluding singles to retain the trophy, Europe won six of the first eight encounters, before Germany’s Martin Kaymer secured the vital point to retain the Cup by beating Steve Stricker 1-up.
After Stricker had coolly holed his par putt from eight feet at the last, Kaymer buried his five-footer for a matching par, before thrusting his arms skywards in delight as European fans erupted with deafening cheers at Medinah Country Club.
“It’s undescribable [sic],” the German said as chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole” echoed across the course. “I was so nervous the last two, three holes. I loved it. It’s amazing.”
With the chance of a tie resting on the final match, Tiger Woods astonishingly missed a three-foot par putt at the 18th, then conceded a putt from similar length to halve his contest with Italy’s Francesco Molinari and hand Europe outright victory.
“It was already over,” Woods said. “This is a team event and the Cup was already been retained by Europe.”
Europe, who sent out their best players early, emulated the miracle comeback achieved by the US at Brookline in 1999 when they also overhauled a deficit of 10-6 on the final day, in front of vocal home crowds, to triumph by the same margin.
However, Europe’s astonishing turnaround, which stunned the flag-waving US fans into periods of silence in the late afternoon, will be viewed as more impressive having been delivered on foreign soil.
“We believed in our hearts we could win this,” said Englishman Luke Donald, who earned Europe’s first point of the day in the opening match with a 2-and-1 win over Masters champion Bubba Watson. “It’s been done before and we believed we could turn it around.”
The Europeans drew inspiration on Sunday from their beloved Ballesteros, who died last year aged 54 after a battle with cancer, with every player wearing the navy blue colors favored by the Spaniard in the final rounds of tournaments.
“Seve will always be present with this team,” said a teary-eyed Jose Maria Olazabal, for whom his compatriot Ballesteros was both a friend and mentor. “He was a big factor for this event, for the European side. Last night, when we were having that [team] meeting, I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing and I think they did. This one is for the whole of Europe.”
Europe won four and halved one of the six matches that reached the 18th hole as they triumphed for a fourth time on US soil. They have now won the Ryder Cup seven times in the last nine editions.
US captain Davis Love III, whose team had been in a dominant position overnight when leading 10-6, was stunned by the defeat.
“We know what it feels like now from the ‘99 Ryder Cup. It’s a little bit shocking. We were playing so well, everyone on our team was playing so well,” Love said. “I wouldn’t have done anything different. They played great. We had a couple of matches get flipped there at the end, that made it a little bit easier on them.”
Donald set the tone for Europe’s remarkable final day, fending off a late fightback by Watson before ending their match on the 17th green.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, competing in the Cup for the first time since 1999, crushed Brandt Snedeker 5-and-3, before Northern Irish world No. 1 Rory McIlroy beat Keegan Bradley 2-and-1.