COMETH the hour, cometh the men in blue!
After all the starts and stops of the past three days it was fitting that yesterday the weather was not one of the main talking points. Yesterday! was as exciting a finale ever produced in the Ryder Cup, as the US once again nearly pulled off a sensational win. In the end, the boys in blue just had enough in the tank.
Much will be written about yesterday’s matches for months to come, but for me the real winning of the Ryder Cup for Europe came in the third session of the foursomes/fourballs.
At that stage, Europe trailed the US by two and were very much on the back foot. Time and weather constraints meant that there was little time for team discussions about tactics, but whatever was mentioned by Montgomerie, it must have been inspirational.
He got his pairings combinations spot on and his team came out focused on establishing an early lead and building a winning platform. That Europe ultimately won that session 5½ to ½, – to go from a 6-4 deficit to a 9½-6½ lead – was a crushing blow to the Americans.
Yesterday, it was all about putting as many blue numbers up on the board as quickly as possible in the hope of building a victorious momentum.
Montgomerie has to be applauded for his captaincy. At all times, he looked in control of what he was doing, even when things were not going his way. His choice of still tournament-active vice-captains worked very well. !Their respective statures amongst the players guaranteed attention to detail at all times.
Montgomerie also set up the course properly for the players. It was a fair course, even if the greens rolled significantly slower than the Americans are used to. That said, they held their fair share of putts yesterday, but it was advantage Europe in this department. Montgomerie also worked the large galleries very well.
Montgomerie’s pairings, and their order, were consistently strong all the time, as they needed to be as history has shown that Europe in all likelihood needed a lead going into yesterday’s singles to prevail.
Montgomerie once again came up trumps today with the selection of his singles order. He led strongly from the front, but also put a lot of experience in the tail in case it was required. In Graeme McDowell, he obviously had someone who he was confident could bring Europe home if required.
To a man, his team played as a team but even amongst them key individuals stood tall when it mattered most. Lee Westwood was inspirational. He led from the front much as Colin has done in the Ryder Cup throughout his own career. Lee was always going to have to play a pivotal role if Europe were going to give themselves a chance, but his performances this week – given his prolonged absence from the game due to injury – were key to overall success.
Luke Donald and Ian Poulter also had an exceptional Ryder Cup, but McDowell has very much come of age this week. He guided Rory McIlroy through the week and he brought home the spoils when it mattered most.
For McIlroy, this week was another valuable bit of experience he has now gained in his quest to be one of the world’s very best golfers. He will have learned a lot about himself from the week on how best to handle himself under extreme pressure.
If he is honest with himself, he will need to get meaner on the course, not cough up as many silly mistakes and improve his putting another notch if he is to compete for victories more often. That said, his potential is phenomenal; he was a huge asset to Europe and is likely to be an integral part of the team for many years to come.
For Padraig Harrington, this was a good week. Apart from his points offering, he was invaluable to Ross Fisher in the fourballs and to the rest of his team-mates behind closed doors. That said, he was under huge pressure, particularly from the British media, and that is likely to continue in their post-match analysis. He has not shown any real form for some time, and most alarmingly for a player of his talents, he is fast slipping down the world rankings. He must address some core issues with his swing, namely his accuracy off the tee.
For the Americans, this was very much a case of an opportunity lost. I know Corey Pavin as a very emotional character and I feel that he could have shown more emotion (much like Paul Azinger in Valhalla) on the course to his players to act as a rallying call.
As badly as some of his key players played, I thought that his captain’s picks and some of his rookies, especially Jeff Overton, played very well.
Much will have been mumbled about the slow greens, but Corey and his team would have known coming here that the greens would have been slow. But where Corey missed a beat was allowing his team to take their foot off at the start of the third session. That lapse in concentration has proven to be fatal, gallant and all as their fightback was yesterday.
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