During the Ryder Cup, which took place Sept. 27-30, Europe completed one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of golf by overcoming a six-point deficit in the last two days, stunning the United States 14.5 to 13.5 at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill.
The Europeans went into the final two matches on Saturday down 10-4 and managed to win those matches and cut the deficit to 10-6, giving them a fighting chance going into the 12 singles matches Sunday.
At the same time, most fans did not think the Europeans had the manpower necessary to pull off the impossible.
European captain Jose Maria Olazabal sent his strongest players, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald out first to try and cut into the deficit early.
Things looked bleak early on when world-ranked number one McIlroy overslept and almost missed his 11:25 a.m. local time start against American Keegan Bradley.
According to the Golf Channel on NBC, McIlroy’s reason for being late was that he did not realize Chicago’s time zone was Central and not Eastern.
Had McIlroy not teed off five minutes after his scheduled start time, Europe would have had to concede the first hole and potentially lose a point, which could have flipped the score the other way in favor of the Americans.
Through all of the chaos and confusion, McIlroy mustered the strength to make it to his match on time and defeat Bradley 2 and 1 to pull the Europeans to within two points of the Americans.
Not long after, the tide began to take a turn for the worst for the Americans. The flags on the scoreboard began changing colors from the Americans’ red to the Europeans’ dark blue as the day progressed.
Only a short time later, U.S. team member Phil Mickleson lost the 17th and 18th holes to Europe’s Justin Rose, putting the Europeans at a 10-10 tie against the Americans with eight matches that still needed to be decided.
Both teams exchanged points until it came down to the final few matches that would decide the fate of both teams.
Seasoned U.S. veteran Jim Furyk managed to go into the 17th hole with a one-shot lead over Europe’s Sergio Garcia only to see Furyk miss putts on the 17th and 18th holes to Garcia, giving him the comeback win and the Europeans another point.
That put Europe in the lead for the first time in the Ryder Cup at 13-12.
Jason Dufner of the U.S. team was one of the few shining stars, managing to win his match against Europe’s Peter Hanson by two holes.
That match evened the score again to 13-13 as the hopes of both countries winning the Ryder Cup would come down to the final two matches.
Steve Stricker of the U.S. and Europe’s Martin Kaymer battled it out to the 18th hole, where both had an equal chance of halving it but Stricker’s putt rimmed out, opening the door for Kaymer to punch in the cup-clinching putt.
With the sun setting on a late fall afternoon, Kaymer nailed the putt and completed arguably the best comeback in not just golf, but in sports all year.
Ironically, the final match that featured Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari meant nothing when it got to the 18th hole, as word began to spread that Europe had retained the cup.
That match ended up being halved, giving the Europeans the one-point win.
The champagne began to flow, the European fans who traveled far and wide began to celebrate, but Olazabal kept it in perspective by saying this one is for Seve Ballesteros.
Ballesteros, who died last summer of a malignant brain tumor, was one of the first European players that helped make the Ryder Cup what it is today with his innovative shot-making and his ability to motivate his fellow teammates when they needed it the most.
Europe’s win over the U.S. gives them five victories in the last six Ryder Cups.
The Europeans’ turnaround was their biggest comeback since 1995, when they overcame a mere two-point deficit to win the prestigious event over the U.S.