Bunker Mentality

Europe’s heroes driven to glory by spirit of Seve

Bunker Mentality

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Half-way through the singles matches of the Ryder Cup at Medinah, a plane flew overhead writing a simple message in the sky that could not be missed by the 45,000 fans, 24 players, or the two captains: "Do it for Seve".

And wow, how they did.

What the European team did to win the Ryder Cup was just as brilliant, outrageous, audacious and defiant as anything Seve Ballesteros produced in his great career. In some ways it went beyond anything the great man did, for Seve never took part in such an unbelievable comeback even in his greatest days of Ryder Cup golf.

Yet without Seve, none of it would ever have been possible since he was the man who first showed the way. If this was a European side that touched the heavens with some stupendous golf on Sunday in Chicago, it was only because they were standing on the shoulders of the giant who inspired the continent to take on America in the first place.

And make no mistake: this team did indeed reach new heights. Only twice before since mainland Europe entered the event has a team ever won the Ryder Cup singles by an 8.5-3.5 margin, and both times it was on home soil - once by the USA at Brookline in 1999, and once by Europe at the K Club in Ireland. Both times, the golfers were roared to their brilliant achievement by overwhelmingly partisan crowds.

To do so away from home seems superhuman. This was a victory earned against what is acclaimed (both subjectively and statistically) as the best American side in a generation, but also earned against tens of thousands of boisterous fans who cheered every European bogey, and booed every drive into the fairway.

Last time it got this bad was at that match in Brookline in 1999, a match decided when an invasion of the green probably robbed Jose Maria Olazabal of his slim chance of a long putt to rescue the Ryder Cup that year.

That made it all the sweeter that Olazabal was the captain this time around, the most sinned-against player earning the greatest prize of all to a European golfer.

But if exorcising the demons of Brookline was sweet for Olly, even sweeter for Europe's skipper will be the manner in which his men took on the challenge laid down by the skywriters, winning the Ryder Cup for his great friend Seve the year after his life was cut tragically short by cancer.

By the end, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Bunker Mentality has watched every Ryder Cup for 23 years now, and despite witnessing incredible drama of the Belfry in '89, Kiawah Island in '91, Oak Hill in '95 or at Celtic Manor two years ago, there is no doubt whatsoever that Medinah has now trumped the lot as the most thrilling of the lot.

Once again, the Ryder Cup has proven that its appeal goes far beyond golf. In a golden summer of sport that started with the most exciting end to a football season in 23 years, went on with an unforgettable Olympics and Paralympics, and still managed to throw in Major victories by Andy Murray and Rory McIlroy, the final day of the Ryder Cup has trumped the lot for drama, excitement, courage and emotion.

The only sadness is that there's one man who'd have loved it more than anyone. That man, of course, is Seve, who even in death has somehow earned one more Ryder Cup victory.

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Shot of the day: Only one contender: Justin Rose's birdie putt on 17. The world number five had just seen Phil Mickelson hit a difficult-looking chip to six inches, apparently to secure a one-up lead going to the 18th tee - but Rose had other ideas. He holed his 40ft putt from the back fringe to stun everyone at Medinah apart from himself, then won the last as well to make it five points from the top five matches in the singles. Without that incredible start to the singles, the comeback would simply not have happened.

Superb captaincy of the day: Jose Maria Olazabal's inspired blend of front-loading the order with stars to try and get some momentum going. Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari were never going to lead from the front after coming in to the week in terrible form, but they had a chance to get inspired.

Gentleman of the day: BM is quick to criticise Tiger Woods when his sportsmanship is poor, so we'll praise him now for kindness in giving Molinari's putt for a half point and the outright win, an act that seemed very magnanimous. Of course, you could also argue that he couldn't bear watching a putt from 18 inches that was basically unmissable, and that he probably couldn't give a stuff about whether it was a tied match or a won match if Europe were getting to keep the trophy either way.

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