Europe retains Ryder Cup with Kaymer win

| Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, 6:36 p.m.

MEDINAH, Ill. — Erasing some of their worst Ryder Cup memories, the Europeans wore the image of Seve Ballesteros on their sleeves and played their hearts out Sunday at Medinah to match the greatest comeback in history and head home with that precious gold trophy.

Europe got its payback for Brookline, when the Americans roared back from the same 10-6 deficit. This rally was even more remarkable, carried out before a raucous American crowd.

Jose Maria Olazabal squeezed his eyes and fought back tears when Martin Kaymer holed a 6-foot par putt to beat Steve Stricker and give Europe the point it needed to keep the cup. This was the first Ryder Cup since Ballesteros, the soul of European golf in this event, died in May 2011 of a brain tumor. Olazabal wanted his team to wear navy blue, Seve's favorite color, and added a clever touch — his iconic silhouette on the sleeves of their shirts.

“This one is for all of Europe,” Olazabal said. “Seve will always be present with this team. He was a big factor for this event for the European side, and last night when we were having that meeting, I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing.”

Tiger Woods missed a 3 12-foot par putt on the 18th, then conceded a par to Francesco Molinari of about that length to halve their match. The extra half-point made it a clear-cut win for Europe, 14 12-13 12.

Woods and Stricker, the anchors in the lineup, didn't win a match.

Ian Poulter was the first to embrace Olazabal, which was only fitting.

It was Poulter who gave Europe hope Saturday evening when he made five straight birdies to turn a loss into a win and swing momentum. Poulter was up to his fist-pumping tricks again on the final day, winning the last two holes in his match against U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

He had plenty of help. Europe's top five players in the lineup all won, including Rory McIlroy, who thought his match was at 12:25 p.m. — it was listed in Eastern time, not Central — and needed a police escort to get to the course with 10 minutes to spare. Then he came up with key birdies to hand Keegan Bradley his first loss.

The biggest match might have belonged to Justin Rose. He was on the verge of losing to Phil Mickelson when Rose holed a 12-foot par putt to halve the 16th, made a 35-foot birdie putt from the back of the 17th green to win the hole and then closed out Mickelson with a 12-foot birdie on the last hole.

Six of the 12 matches went to the 18th hole. The Americans won one of them.

The Americans rallied from a four-point deficit to win in 1999 at Brookline. But this was different. The Americans won big in those early matches. At Medinah, so many could have gone either way.

Europe has won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups.

Davis Love III became the first U.S. captain to sit every player at least once before Sunday, wanting them to be fresh for the decisive day. Instead, the Americans faltered at the end.

“We're all kind of stunned,” Love said. “We were playing so well. ... We got a couple of matches flipped there in the middle that cost us.”

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