The Americans will have plenty of moments to stew on in the days, weeks and months following Europe’s historic 14.5-13.5 comeback victory here at Medinah. In the biggets moments, on holes 17 and 18, some of the Americans’ most experienced players just couldn’t come through.
Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose came to No. 18 all square after Rose made a big birdie putt on 17. Off the 18th tee, Mickelson found the fairway while Rose found the rough. Yet Mickelson missed the green and Rose stuck his approach out of the sand to about 12 feet. Rose made the putt to pull out a point he appeared to have no business winning just 20 minutes earlier.
Jim Furyk suffered a similar fate. He came to the 17th tee 1-up on Sergio Garcia, only to give it away with bogeys on 17 and 18. On the par-3 17th, his tee shot landed in the bunker, his second shot was well past the hole, and — after a very lengthy session trying to read the putt, nearly falling into the water in the process — he missed the comebacker. On 18, Furyk missed an utterly crucial 5-footer that would have halved the match, instead giving a point away to Garcia.
Then there was Steve Stricker — who went 0-for-4 in his four matches at this Ryder Cup. After Martin Kaymer bogeyed 15 to square the match, Stricker made a big, gutsy 8-footer at 16 to halve the hole and keep the match tied. On 17, Stricker’s tee shot landed just off the edge of the green, about 35 feet away. After Kaymer putted past the hole, Stricker putted even farther past the hole. Kaymer made the comebacker, and Stricker — one of the purest putters in the world — missed it and made bogey, falling 1-down heading into the 18th. That meant Kaymer only had to halve the 18th to win the Ryder Cup. Stricker found the back of the green from the fairway, but Stricker was closer from a fairway bunker. Stricker, after a lengthy read, missed the putt well to the left, and Kaymer two-putted to retain the Cup. Stricker didn’t make a single birdie over the final eight holes, making three bogeys instead.
In the end, Europe simply made the big shots — think of Ian Poulter’s incredible approach from the edge of the gallery on 18, Rose’s putts on 17 and 18, and Kaymer on 18 — and the United States simply couldn’t seal the deal.