I’m sure Jose Maria Olazabal will be going to YouTube tonight to make a quick copy of Ben Crenshaw’s speech from the ’99 Ryder Cup in Boston.
His European team is in the exact same position as that ’99 USA squad, trailing 10-6 heading into the Sunday singles matches at this year’s edition of the Ryder Cup at Medinah CC in Chicago.
Until his team picked up two late points on Saturday afternoon, Olazabal wouldn’t have needed the Crenshaw video. They would have needed a miracle, not a pep talk, had Ian Poulter and Luke Donald not pulled off rock-star putting displays late in their respective better-ball matches.
As it stands now, a 10-6 deficit is going to be difficult to overcome, but, as the European captain will no doubt remind his team, it has been done before.
The U.S. team needs 4.5 points (out of 12) to reclaim the Cup. Europe needs 8 points to retain the Cup, as the defending titleist needs only to TIE the competition to win.
Here’s the match-by-match breakdown of Sunday’s singles competition.
Luke Donald (Europe) vs. Bubba Watson (USA) — Donald has more Ryder Cup competition than Watson, but the current Masters champ has played well this week at Medinah. Advantage: Donald
Ian Poulter (E) vs. Webb Simpson (U) — Poulter has been the best overall performer in the matches thus far, with his 5-birdie barrage at the end of Saturday’s play going down as one of the most electric back nines in Ryder Cup history. Simpson, the U.S. Open champ this summer, has been solid for Davis Love III as well. This should be one of the better match-ups of the Singles competition. Advantage: Poulter
Rory McIlroy (E) vs. Keegan Bradley (U) — McIlroy has not played well at Medinah, particularly with his wedges and short-game clubs. Bradley, meanwhile, has been the best ball striker on the U.S. team through the first two days. How will he perform WITHOUT Mickelson at his side is the big question, but a win over McIlroy will prove that he can play well without the aid of a veteran cheerleader. Advantage: McIlroy
Justin Rose (E) vs. Phil Mickelson (U) — Mickelson looked sharp in three rounds with Bradley and seems to have gained confidence in his new putting grip. Rose hasn’t been sharp at all, with his unreliable short game hurting him Friday and Saturday. Advantage: Mickelson
Paul Lawrie (E) vs. Brandt Snedeker (U) — Lawrie is playing in his first Ryder Cup since 1999. Snedeker is playing in his first one, ever. Snedeker was hot and cold partnering with Jim Furyk, but when you’re the best putter on TOUR, like Brandt is, you’re always capable of pouring them in over 18 holes. Advantage: Snedeker
Nicolas Colsaerts (E) vs. Dustin Johnson (U) — The bombers get together for what should be a wild match of long drives and plenty of birdies. Colsaerts was a captain’s pick and has proved a worthy one, as was Dustin Johnson, who teamed up with Matt Kuchar for the first two days of play. Johnson did not play well in the Saturday afternoon match, but was bailed out by Kuchar’s hot putter. Advantage: Colsaerts
Graeme McDowell (E) vs. Zach Johnson (U) — McDowell has battling “the lefts” all week at Medinah and has been one of Europe’s least effective performers. Johnson, meanwhile, had his own troubles with a faulty driver on Saturday afternoon. Advantage: Johnson
Sergio Garcia (E) vs. Jim Furyk (U) — Another match that could go either way, as both players have been hot and cold in the first two days. Furyk has the experience edge over Garcia, but the Spaniard rises to the occasion in the Ryder Cup, a lot like his captain and the late Seve Ballesteros. Advantage: Furyk
Peter Hanson (E) vs. Jason Duffner (U) — Hanson came in playing poorly and was used just once by Olazabal. Dufner has been the second best American player overall, behind only Bradley. Advantage: Dufner
Lee Westwood (E) vs. Matt Kuchar (U) — A shaky short game has hurt Westwood in these matches and his putter has been among the coldest on the European team. Kuchar has been terrific, combining great iron play with a scorching hot putter. Advantage: Kuchar
Martin Kaymer (E) vs. Steve Stricker (U) — Kaymer, like Hanson, came into these matches on bad form and hasn’t impressed at all, playing just once in the first two days. Stricker has hit the ball well, but his usually-solid putter hasn’t been up to par at all. That won’t last for three days. Advantage: Stricker
Francesco Molinari (E) vs. Tiger Woods (U) — Molinari is capable of playing solid golf but his putter has been erratic at Medinah. Woods hasn’t played nearly as bad as his 0-3 record would indicate. After a horrible round driving the ball in the Friday morning matches, Tiger rebounded with rounds of -5 and -6 in the better ball matches (with the typical match play concessions) and single-handedly kept the Saturday afternoon match alive with his great play. Advantage: Woods
Summary: It’s just too much of a hurdle for the Europeans to overcome, although Olazabal was smart in sending out his three best players to start the singles matches. He’s obviously hoping to get some early points and build some enthusiasm. Love III countered with his better players (in this competition) early and then built some reserve on the back end with Kuchar, Stricker and Woods. For Europe to mount a threat, they need strong performances from the guys who have played the worst (Hanson, Kaymer and Lawrie) thus far in the competition.