When Severiano Ballesteros holed a putt of about 20 foot on the 18th green at St Andrews in 1984 he had secured his second British Open Championship. The iconic image of his clenched fist was superimposed on to the bags and shirts of the 2012 European Ryder Cup players.
Jose Maria Olazabal broke down several times during the opening and closing ceremonies as he remembered his great friend who died of illness last year aged just 56. He and Ballesteros combined most famously in the early Ryder Cups in which players from Continental Europe were eligible to play.
Ballesteros loved beating the Americans at golf and he played with tremendous spirit and never gave up. It might be a romantic notion but perhaps Seve was the thirteenth man at Medinah rather than the Chicago crowd.
The Europeans were totally inspired on singles Sunday and it was Olazabal’s speeches over the course of this wonderful sporting occasion that gave them such confidence. No side in Ryder Cup history has won the event away from home after trailing by four points ahead of the singles.
By winning the session 8.5 points to 3.5 Europe had recorded their biggest ever singles winning margin in the history of the event. In winning the first five matches a four point deficit soon became and one point lead and after that start there was no clear favourite.
Europe have now won five of the last six Ryder Cups and the US players looked stunned and devastated after this latest agonising defeat. They have now lost two of the last three matches played at home and things won’t get any easier at Gleneagles in 2014.
There were critical shots and swings in momentum all afternoon on Sunday. Europe started exceptionally well but the Americans had the better of things around the middle of the afternoon. Every point was precious but it was almost beyond belief that Justin Rose (pictured) managed to beat Phil Mickelson.
Ultimately the Ryder Cup was won and lost because of two shots. Jim Furyk missed from about seven feet on the final green which meant he lost to Sergio Garcia. Martin Kaymer then drained a six footer to ensure that Europe had retained the Ryder Cup. Tiger Woods’s missed putt on the last hole meant Europe had won the matches outright rather than retaining the Cup through a tie.
Arguably this was the greatest afternoon in the history of the Ryder Cup but for the wrong reasons for the Americans. They holed all the putts on the first two days but were outplayed on the greens and from tee to green on Sunday.
The US players should feel proud of their efforts and the class with which they accepted this honourable defeat. But at the end of a pulsating three days of sport it was the dearly departed Seve who had the most influence.