They say football is a game of two halves, but today, that adage belonged to the Ryder Cup. The half that was, and the half that was never to be. If Europe go on to win this Ryder Cup, they can thank the half they somehow eked out against the odds this morning in a match they were dead and buried in. If, as now seems more likely, USA win the trophy, it may well have been a missed tiddler by Lee Westwood on the 18th late in the day that turned the tide of this tournament.
Unfortunately, Lee Westwood has form as a ‘choker’. His proclivity for missing putts that are easier to hole than miss is why he has never won a Major, but in the past he has always been reliable in Ryder Cups. Which is no doubt why he was captain Darren Clarke’s pick even though he is woefully out of form. It is a decision that has, so far, backfired spectacularly. Pairing him with the personally troubled (provoking sibling issues) Danny Willett for the afternoon fourballs was probably also not the best decision since, as Danny Willett admitted afterwards, they ‘couldn’t quite back one another up’. Between the two of them, they somehow contrived to lose a match they could, and perhaps should, have won. Significantly, losing the half point has helped to shift the momentum firmly in the Americans’ favour when they had been reeling from scraping a draw in a match they were winning easily.
An improbable comeback from the Spanish pairing of Sergio Garcia and rookie Rafa Cabrera-Bello in the final match against Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, when they were 4 down with 6 to play, to claim a vital half, had helped Europe to cut the overnight deficit from 5-3 to 6 1/2 to 5 1/2 after the morning foresomes. The afternoon fourballs looked to be heading for a draw with Europe up in the first two matches and the Americans ahead in the last two matches. However, in the second match out, Willett and Westwood twice lost the lead against J B Holmes and Ryan Moore to be all square going into the 17th hole. Then, they both bogeyed to lose the 17th to a par putt. But they gave themselves an excellent chance to win the final hole and gain a crucial half point with a great approach shot by Lee Westwood to within 3 feet of the hole. Now, it just required steady nerves and steady hands. And anyone but Lee Westwood to take the putt. In the push of a putt, Europe had lost three out of the four afternoon fourballs and fallen an almost insurmountable three points behind – 9 1/2 to 6 1/2 points – going into Sunday’s singles.
Of course, a three point deficit isn’t completely unassailable. After all, Europe were four points behind going into the singles at Medinah. And we all know what happened next. So does the USA captain Davis Love III. He also happened to be the captain in 2012 when an inspired Europe came back from 10-6 down to win. Another miraculous European comeback would also serve the ill mannered and unsporting American crowd right, who have once again shamed the American players, who, in contrast, have behaved with impeccable sportsmanship throughout the contest. It is one thing to cheer for your own, but quite another to heckle and abuse the opposition players and shout out for balls to go in the water or miss the hole. It would be worth Europe winning just to have them silenced.