U.S. Open golf champion Graeme McDowell was the player to end America’s Ryder Cup dreams.
McDowell’s victory in the final singles match yesterday ensured that Europe would hold on to win 14½ to 13½ and reclaim the trophy. The U.S. needed 14 points to retain the cup that it won two years ago at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.
With the host team needing to win the final match at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales, and the U.S. team surging, McDowell sank a 20-foot putt on the 16th hole to put the pressure back on Hunter Mahan. The Northern Irishman later said he felt “so nervous he could barely hold the club,” according to teammate Lee Westwood.
McDowell started to realize his match would matter as the scoreboard began showing improving American performance. Europe started the day with a three-point lead, and just after lunch was winning seven of the 12 singles matches. McDowell realized on the 10th green that things were turning around. Zach Johnson’s victory tied the event at 13½-13½.
“I’ve never felt that nervous on a golf course in my life,” McDowell said. “Obviously, I hoped I wasn’t going to be needed. At that point, I got extremely nervous and coming down the stretch there, I’ve never felt nerves like it.”
With McDowell’s putt giving him a two-hole lead with two holes remaining, Mahan was forced to take chances to try to keep the trophy in American hands. The resident of Colleyville, Texas, fluffed a shot on the next hole, conceding the match to McDowell and setting off celebrations in the middle of the 17th green. The native of Portrush, Northern Ireland, won 3 and 1, or by three holes with one to play.
McDowell said the Ryder Cup is far more nerve-wracking than the U.S. Open, which he won at Pebble Beach in June.
“The U.S. Open felt like the back nine with my dad at Portrush,” he said. “I was really nervous, wow. It’s a different feeling, it’s just so much pressure.”
McDowell’s self-belief was the reason he anchored the European team today, according to captain Colin Montgomerie.
“Graeme McDowell was put there for a good reason, he’s full of confidence and it showed,” Montgomerie said. “That birdie on 16 was quite unbelievable.”
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