Highlights of the Year #1: McDowell at the Ryder Cup
Monday 4th October. The 16th at Celtic Manor. 13.5 points to Europe, 13.5 points to the USA. Every game has finished bar one, Graeme McDowell v Hunter Mahan. McDowell was leading by one, with a 15ft putt to win the hole.
Tension was in the air, if America were to just tie the hole, they would keep the Ryder Cup, Europe had to win. McDowell had to win.
On the green. Surrounded by thousands of fans watching just that one hole. Just those two players. He bends down, surveying the turf. Shots of his team mates, Rory McIlroy, fearing the worst And walks up to the ball, the pressure of an entire continent resting on his shoulders.
Three practice putts and then McDowell lines it up. Swings back and forth, releasing energy onto the ball. Off it goes, movement left and right, slowly heading to the hole in the ground. He moves the club to his left hand as the ball reaches the left hand side of the hole.
Pandemonium. Sheer delight, McDowell raises his hands and punches the air, screaming “Come on.”. Europe 2 up with two to play, they couldn’t lose it now, surely.
Hunter Mahan would go on to concede the 17th hole, making McDowell the winner of the match and handing back the Ryder Cup to the thankful arms of Team Europe. After the disaster in 2008 it was good to see Colin Montgomerie lead the team back to the winning ways it was used to in the early part of the decade.
In a way, Europe were lucky. The heavy rain changed everything and one session would become so influential to European victory. Session 3 was changed to include two foursome matches and four fourballs. The session would see Europe pick up a massive 5.5 points compared to the USA’s 0.5. This would be the only session the Europeans would go onto win, with USA on top in the other three. But the weather was taken advantage of by one team, and they made the team that didn’t pay severely.
Take nothing of the performance of Graeme McDowell on the 16th hole. Despite it being won on the 17th, it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for one of the most memorable putts in golfing history. Everything was perfect, and with so many people watching, both at Celtic Manor and at home in front of a TV, he got it so right at the moment he needed to do that.
It capped off an exceptionally good year for McDowell, who also became the first British golfer since Paul Lawrie in 1999 to win a major championship, by winning the US Open. Add this to Martin Kaymer’s success at the USPGA and Lee Westwood becoming the world number 1, everything really did make this a golfing year for Europe to remember.
It didn’t just end there of course, the success of McDowell and Westwood over the year has seen them nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. And while I feel Westwood hasn’t done enough to deserve it, my vote may just be heading to the Northern Irishman.