Justin Leonard was nowhere to be found. Where the incredible comeback at Brookline in 1999 spurred the Americans to a Ryder Cup win and an impromptu green celebration, the mood seemed somber, inevitable at Medinah.
Trailing 10-6 as Sunday began; the Europeans reclaimed the Ryder Cup with a 14-14 tie. Questions probing mental makeup, mostly of Tiger Woods, hovered over the entirety of the American team playing late into twilight.
They simply…collapsed. Steve Stricker needed to best Martin Kaymer on 18 to even give themselves a shot but though the German left the door open, Stricker couldn’t close it. Woods, a veritable liability to Davis Love III’s squad all weekend, was lined up for a victory or a half but the match ahead of him ended the competition.
Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk held single shot leads on the seventeenth only to gift the Europeans points that wouldn’t come elsewhere.
Jose Maria Olazabal replicated the U.S. approach in 1999 by stressing the significance of a feverish Sunday start. They paid him back by winning five of the day’s first six pairings.
Pundits and people alike will find a reason to point fingers at individuals because that’s what golf is, a solo game. Akin to team sports though, momentum strangles participants with its pithy grasp. When the dam broke and the Americans were searching for a spark, there were only missed putts. No one came to save them.
No one hit a 40-foot, improbable putt to stave off an unforgettable European comeback.
Justin Leonard needed a miracle at Brookline.
At Medinah, the Europeans simply waited for Martin Kaymer to tap in the inevitable.