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Fan favorite Luke Donald gave Europeans early momentum

Luke Donald’s match ended nearly three hours before Martin Kaymer’s Ryder Cup-clinching putt fell in the fading light of a Sunday evening at Medinah.

But his 2&1 victory over Bubba Watson to lead off Sunday’s singles matches was crucial to the Europeans’ dramatic 14.5-13.5 victory. European captain Jose Maria Olazabal sent out the former World No. 1 first to get some blue on the board, and Donald did just that.

With six birdies against just two bogeys, Donald raced out to a 4-up lead through 12 holes before holding off a hard-charging Watson, who birdied 14, 15 and 16, with a chip-in on 16 ratcheting up the pressure on Donald.

“The nerves were starting to build, and Bubba was putting some serious pressure on me,” Donald said.

But Donald — the hometown hero playing for the road team — made a nifty up-and-down from a greenside bunker on 17 to close out the match.

Donald, a 2001 Northwestern grad from England who still lives in the Chicago area, might have been the only player to be heartily cheered by fans of both sides.

“I actually felt somewhat loved this week, even though I’m playing for the Euros” Donald said. “It was nice to hear all the cheers.”

Captains’ log

Olazabal certainly got more mileage out of his captain’s picks than David Love III did. Olazabal only got two picks — Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts. They combined for five points, as Poulter went 4-0 and Colsaerts carried Lee Westwood to a 1-up victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in Friday’s four-ball play.

Love had twice as many captain’s picks, but Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker combined for just four points, with Johnson going 3-0. In Sunday singles, Stricker and Furyk both melted down over the final two holes, and Snedeker was crushed 5&3 by unheralded Paul Lawrie.

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