PGA Tour

By Jim Brighters, Golf Editor - Archive - Email
What a way to go out
The Europeans did what they had to do on Sunday and let the blame game for USA begin.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Stunned. Flabbergasted. Speechless. Confused. Lost.

You pick a word, that's still the feeling about what transpired Sunday at the Ryder Cup.

"Miracle at Medinah."

"Meltdown at Medinah."

Whatever headline you like, it's appropriate.

After 12 hours of marinating, it's still hard to pinpoint exactly how what happened Sunday at the Ryder Cup.

Almost to man, the European team, who showed up in top form on the golf course, and even better form at the press conference, stated that coming back and getting those last two points in Saturday afternoon's four-balls flicked on a light.

"Yesterday, there was something in that team room which ignited everybody, and it was inspirational," said Ian Poulter, the catalyst of that Saturday afternoon comeback, Ryder Cup MVP and personal hero. "Just to see everybody's kind of personalities change and the atmosphere change in that room; and I knew there was a glimmer of hope."

That was the key - the Europeans may not have thought they would win on Sunday, but they thought they could.

The European side never needs much to galvanize them. Poulter birdied the last five holes on Saturday night and he and Rory McIlroy beat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.

Don't sleep on Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia taking out Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, either. Those last two points turned the tide.

The Europeans did what they had to do on Sunday and let the blame game begin.

The brunt of Twitter and media scrutiny fell on three men, captain Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and Stricker.

For Love, the criticism is a little unfair. He took a a lot of flack for benching Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley Saturday afternoon. They demolished anyone in their path the first three sessions, but the situation was clarified a bit Sunday after the matches when Mickelson interrupted an answer Love diplomatically gave on that very subject.

"As far as playing Keegan and I, you need to hear something," Mickelson explained. "Keegan and I knew going in that we were not playing in the afternoon, and we said on the first tee, we are going to put everything we have into this one match, because we are not playing the afternoon. And when we got to 10, I went to Davis and I said, 'Listen, you're seeing our best; you cannot put us in the afternoon, because we emotionally and mentally are not prepared for it.'"

Love didn't want anyone playing all five sessions. He became the first American captain since the five-session format to not have anyone play the whole Cup. That may be a bit naive, but how can you beg a player to play when he wants out?

Love did just fine. He sent out a good lineup on Sunday, front-loaded with the four guys who played best to that point in the matches.

He is catching heat for adding Furyk and Stricker to the team as captain's picks. Furyk was shaky, although, if you think Hunter Mahan was a clearly better choice for the team than Furyk, I still don't see it. Sadly, what exactly plagued Furyk all year -- the late collapse that got him at the U.S. Open and Bridgestone Invitational -- got him again on Sunday.

As for Stricker, he was the 10th-ranked player in the world when he was chosen. That didn't warrant being one of four picks?

Stricker was bad all week. He went 0-4 and frankly didn't look good doing it. Martin Kaymer went into Sunday as the worst player in the event and Stricker couldn't beat him. Stricker, considered one of the best putters in the world, didn't hole the putts when he needed. He was a massive disappointment.

Furyk was emblematic of Sunday's biggest hurdle for the Americans, the last two holes. Discarding halves, the Americans went 11-2 on 17 and 18 Sunday. Furyk took a 1-up lead to the 17th tee, lost the last two holes and handed Garcia a full point at a critical time.

"I'm pretty sure Sergio would tell you that I outplayed him today," said Furyk, in a statement I doubt Sergio would agree with. "But I didn't win and I lost the match. I've had a lot of that happen this year."

It's easy to assign blame to those three, but sometimes, the team that wins, does it on their own. You don't have to say the losers did X to lose it.

But, before your wrath hits Furyk, or Stricker, consider this:

Bubba Watson - for all the whooping it up he did with the crowd, the only whooping on Sunday was by Donald in the vital opening match.

Webb Simpson - took a 2-up lead against Poulter and lost the last two holes to give Poulter and Europe a full point to keep the momentum going. Both he and Bubba looked a little lost without each other.

Bradley - was awesome this week, but couldn't beat McIlroy after McIlroy confused time zones, showed up 11 minutes before his match and didn't hit a warm-up ball.

Mickelson - like Furyk, took a 1-up lead to the 17th tee against Justin Rose and walked off with a loss. This match turned the Ryder Cup into an uphill battle for the United States, but at least Rose made about 50 feet of birdie putts on those two holes to win.

Brandt Snedeker - got smoked by the previous listless Paul Lawrie on Sunday. Went 1-2 for the week and didn't show that great putting prowess that won him $11.44 million the Sunday before.

Matt Kuchar - after playing brilliantly the first two days, put up almost no fight in a crucial match against Lee Westwood, who I almost forgot was at the Ryder Cup until Sunday.

Zach Johnson and Dufner - two of the three Americans to win on Sunday, but the 2-up lead with six to play they blew on Saturday night turned out to be the turning point in the match. That may be nit-picking a bit.

Dustin Johnson - 3-0, you're fine, dude.

And that leaves Woods.

In the anchor match against Francesco Molinari, Woods never took the lead until the 13th hole, then lost it one hole later. If he beats on Molinari like he should have, the whole complexion of the matches changes. Woods went 0-3-1 for the week. That is unacceptable and so was his performance Sunday.

With Europe guaranteed the necessary 14 points to secure the Cup in the event of a tie, he conceded Molinari a three-footer at 18. Molinari didn't do the same and Woods missed his short putt. He treated that last match, which was the difference between a tie and outright loss, like it was nothing.

"It was already over," Woods said. "We came here as a team. This is a team event. And the Cup was already been retained by Europe, so it was already over."

Not exactly, but I get the point.

Man, what a Sunday, what a Ryder Cup.

What a way to go out.

This is my last official piece of business as the senior golf editor.

Fret not my loyal minions, I will still be around. I am the new NBA editor here at The Sports Network. I'll understand golf fans if you don't want to follow me there, but I'll still have the "Movie Moment" and "TV Moment." I'm told that's frequently my best work.

The Ryder Cup is my favorite thing in all of sports and it showed why on Sunday. It was a perfectly fitting way to leave. I will still tweet some golf things. I can't give it up totally.

George Gill, Dan Rowan, G, Dan Cohen, Mike Garvey and the new leader, Kevin Currie, represent my colleagues for 12 long years in this department.

To them, I say, GRF.

Now, does anyone know anything about who these Brooklyn Nets are?

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