The 2012 Ryder Cup is in the books, and all of the stereotypes have seemingly come true – the Euros were gutsier, seemed to want it more, and made the putts when they had to. There’s little the US team can do except shake their heads, lay low during silly season, and get their games in order for the 2013 Masters. While nearly every player on the European squad stepped it up in the Sunday singles, here are the players that proved to be the X factor for the European team.
1) Martin Kaymer – Most people will call me crazy, but if you make a 5-foot putt that essentially decides the Ryder Cup then you’re my Ryder Cup hero #1A. Kaymer’s deciding putt was dead center after Steve Stricker forced him to make it, with only Tiger Woods and his 1-up lead over Francesco Molinari left on the course. If Kaymer had missed, the Cup in all likelihood would have been won by Woods in the final pairing – good enough for me. Few players have ever had a putt under that much pressure, and Kaymer proved to be up to the task.
2) Ian Poulter – Ian Poulter put up one of the finest performances in the history of the Ryder Cup, no doubt. Going a perfect 4-0, Poulter’s performance was as cold blooded as could be. He’s an easy villain, but you have to give it up for his performance between the ropes. No matter how you cut it, this guy is an all-time Ryder Cupper - now owning a 12-3 career record. But God is he annoying.
3) Justin Rose - The putts that Justin Rose holed on 16, 17, and 18 allowed him to eek out an improbable win over Phil Mickelson after finding himself 1-down with 3 to play. The definition of clutch on all three holes, Phil could do little but applaud as Rose would not be denied. Without this crucial birdie-birdie finish, the Cup resides in US hands. As one of two Europeans to tee it up in every single event, Rose finished 3-2-0 for the week.
Honorable Mention: Luke Donald - Luke Donald went 2-2-0 for the week, but he gets the honorable mention nod for setting the pace on Sunday. As the first match out on the course for the Euros, Donald was able to get up on Bubba Watson early, establishing some much-needed momentum. His final round was pretty close to flawless, featuring 6 birdies in 17 holes.
You got to hand it to the Euros – they went out there and did what they needed to do to seize this thing.