If only the U.S. Ryder Cup team would have had Joe Flacco.
Or Buck Showalter.
In what quickly became the best Ryder Cup since the European rally and win at Oak Hill in 1995, the two teams staged a dramatic final day of play in Wales that all came down to one match between U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and American Hunter Mahan.
McDowell made two huge putts in his final four holes, including a 15-footer at 16 that put the heat squarely on Mahan at the par-3 17th, and when the American couldn’t make three, Europe took the cup from a spirited U.S. side.
It was almost too much for two human beings to deal with, frankly. The entire golf course (40,000 fans, reportedly) converged on the McDowell-Mahan match shortly after Rickie Fowler capped an improbable final-hour comeback with a birdie at #18 to steal a half-point from Edoardo Molinari. Once Fowler’s half-point was on the board, it meant only that Mahan needed to tie McDowell in order for the U.S. to get 14 points and retain the Cup.
After McDowell got it up and down from 20 yards short of the green at 14, Mahan won #15 with a birdie to cut the lead to one down with 3 to play. A bad tee ball at 16 hurt Mahan’s chances for birdie and McDowell took advantage by drilling a 5-iron to 15 feet. After Mahan deftly chipped to 8-feet, McDowell calmly rolled the birdie in…a putt that will be symbolic of not only this year’s Ryder Cup but his season on the whole.
At 17, with the entire event resting on their respective shoulders, McDowell’s tee ball drifted right and ended up just off the green, 30 feet away. Mahan’s tee-ball inexplicably came up 15 yards short of the green and then, having just chipped beautifully the hole before, his handsy chip attempt plopped 12 feet in front of him, still 35-feet from the hole. McDowell made it interesting by leaving his putt from the fringe about 5 feet short, but Mahan’s par attempt slid right of the hole and his tip of the cap to McDowell and a concession initiated a wild scene at the 17th green as Europe again won on home soil.
The U.S. comeback was made possible by Tiger Woods’ best golf of the year, a 9-under par, 4&3 dismantling of Francesco Molinari, and a rare Ryder Cup positive contribution from Phil Mickelson, who clobbered Peter Hanson. Zach Johnson’s win over Padraig Harrington set the stage for the Fowler-Molinari and McDowell-Mahan matches to decide the victor.
It was, by all accounts, one of the most memorable days of golf in a long, long time, even if the wrong team won.