From left, Europe’s Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, and Lee Westwood reveled in their team’s unlikely comeback against the U.S. Sunday to retain the Ryder Cup.

David J. Phillip, Associated Press

Souhan: Twin Cities golf fans to share in Ryder Cup delight

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • October 2, 2012 - 7:08 AM

MEDINAH, ILL. - Congratulations, Hazeltine National.

In four years you'll be the site of the greatest panorama in sports, if not the greatest event.

"Great stuff, this Ryder Cup," Ian Poulter said.

Here's what it looked like when Europe rallied from a 10-4 deficit to retain the Cup on Sunday afternoon with a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory at Medinah Country Club:

On the 17th green, Phil Mickelson chipped from the hillside and as the ball trickled toward the cup, he sprinted, club raised, around the green. "If that had gone in," he said, "I would have jumped in the water."

Roars and groans had washed over the amphitheater surrounding the 17th green, and the thousands by the 17th tee, and on the bridge, and around the hole, and looking on from adjacent holes, rose and screamed, and then the chip fell short.

On the 18th green, minutes later, Steve Stricker, one of the best putters in the world, missed a 40-foot putt by eight feet. He was surrounded by packed grandstands, and the European and American teams stood nearby. About 150 yards away, Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari waited for shots that would not matter. When Martin Kaymer hit the winning putt, the Europeans began a celebration that extended into the interview room late Sunday night, where Lee Westwood kept singing and talking even as his teammates tried to answer questions.

"This event," said U.S. legend Lee Trevino, "is better than the Super Bowl."

"It's like packing the divisional playoffs, conference championships and Super Bowl into one week," said Patrick Hunt, chair of the Hazeltine Ryder Cup.

Twenty-four golfers who make their living as independent contractors while avoiding risk and rarely showing emotion are thrust, every two years, onto a stage that transforms them into drama kings.

Europe has won seven of the past nine Cups while mimicking their most famous duo, the late Seve Ballesteros and the 2012 team captain, Jose Maria Olazabal. Poulter paid homage to them by going 4-0 this weekend and creating the celebration of choice for Europe: Fists held waist high, eyes bulging.

"Ryder Cup is like no other," he said. "You can't do that in any other situation, celebrate like that on the 16th hole.

"It means that much. I've seen it over the years with Seve and Ollie and Nick Faldo and all the guys. You know what, that's why the Ryder Cup is so special, because you can hole that putt at the right time and it does mean that much, so your emotions just come out."

His emotions left Jim Furyk bent over the 18th green, having lost a key point in the Sunday twilight. He had lost two prominent tournaments this year with late collapses. "This," he said Sunday night, "is the low point for me."

Hazeltine has hosted major championships before, but the Ryder Cup is different. Many of the more than 40,000 fans on site pack around four matches at a time on Friday and Saturday, then scramble around the course to catch the most important matches on Sunday, while others camp by key holes in hopes of watching a pivotal moment.

Roars and groans cascade over the course. After Bubba Watson whipped the fans at the first tee into a frenzy, then hit while they were still cheering, U.S. team vice captain Fred Couples said, "I've never seen anything like that."

Members of the U.S. players' families wore jackets with all of the players' names written on the back, as if they were Little Leaguers, and for this one week they are paid like Little Leaguers. The PGA of America makes charitable donations in the players' names, but they are not compensated.

They play for love of country and team, exposing themselves to ridicule if they fail.

Europe's Rory McIlroy, the No.1-ranked player in the world, barely made it to the first tee on Sunday, saying he had confused the time zones. "It's the most worried I've ever been," McIlroy said. "If I was playing for myself, I'd be fine. It's my own fault. But to let down all the boys and vice captains and captain -- I would never have forgiven myself."

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. •

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