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Team USA suffers epic meltdown in final day of Ryder Cup

Luke Donald Ian Poulter Lee Westwood Rory McIlroy

Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy

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Updated: November 2, 2012 6:19AM

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Leading 10-6 heading into the 12 singles matches Sunday, Team USA was shocked at Medinah by Europe and lost the Ryder Cup
141/2 to 131/2.

The Euros won eight of the first 11 matches, including the first five, to capture their seventh victory in the last nine of these high-intensity international showdowns.

While captain Davis Love III had stressed American team camaraderie and appealed to fans to be Team USA’s 13th man, European captain Jose Maria Olazabal also had a major motivation for his

The Euros made this Ryder Cup a tribute to Olazabal’s longtime
Ryder Cup partner, Seve Balles-
teros, who died of brain cancer on May 7, 2011. He was 54.

“Seve will always be present with this team,’’ Olazabal said. “He was a big factor. Last night when we were meeting, the boys understood that believing was the most important thing. And they did.’’

Love, who played on the 1999 U.S. team that rallied to beat
Europe after being down 10-6, seemed as shocked as anyone.

“We’re all kind of stunned,’’ Love said. “We know what it feels like. It’s a little shocking. We were playing so well. We put our hot players upfront and who we thought were our steady players in the back. I wouldn’t have done anything

Fingers can be pointed at any number of previously hot Team USA players who wilted Sunday. But in the late going, veterans Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk — selected as captain’s picks because of their steady play and experience — fell victim to the intense pressure, missing late par putts they normally make.

Europe officially clinched the Cup when Stricker was unable to win No. 18 and lost the 11th singles match to Martin Kaymer. Stricker had put himself 1 down by missing a six-foot par putt on No. 17 after a hot chip from the fringe had gone past the hole.

“I’m disappointed that I let 11 other players down,’’ Stricker said. “Tiger [Woods] and I were at the end to get some points. And I didn’t.’’

Furyk lost 1 down to Sergio Garcia when he missed a short par putt on No. 18 after bogeying the 17th. Two other Euros also won the 17th and 18th holes to capture matches: Justin Rose threw back-to-back birdies at Phil Mickelson, and Ian Poulter won with par-
birdie against Webb Simpson.

When people saw Woods in the 12th and final match, many thought this Ryder Cup would be over
before it got to America’s 14-time major winner.

As it turned out, they were right. Europe clinched victory in Stricker’s next-to-last match. With Team USA already out of it but required to finish, Woods halved his match with Francesco Molinari by conceding a putt on No. 18. That left the final singles tally at 81/2 to 31/2.

People who believed Team USA was a lock were in for almost as big a surprise as Rory McIlroy, who thought his match began at 12:25, rather than 11:25, not realizing Chicago is on Central time.

Arriving 11 minutes before his tee time, courtesy of a police escort, McIlroy did muni golfers proud. With no warmup in hastily laced shoes, he took down America’s hottest golfer, Keegan Bradley, 2 and 1.

“I’ve never been so worried driving to the golf course,’’ McIlroy said. “Luckily, there was a state trooper who gave me the escort. I calmed as soon as I got here. My warmup sessions aren’t [lengthy], just to get to loose. But I’m pretty loose, anyway.’’

That’s the kind of day it was for Europe.

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