Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Elated Rory McIlroy asks: Wow, did that just happen?

Ulster trio help Europe secure stunning victory

MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 30: Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy during the Singles Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 30, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Northern Ireland’s golf heroes tasted glory they thought had slipped from their grasp as they helped Europe stage a dramatic 11th hour Ryder Cup victory against the US.

After a nail-biting battle, Germany's Martin Kaymer sank the winning putt as Europe matched the biggest ever final day comeback to retain the trophy in Chicago.

Even Rory McIlroy, the Co Down golfer whose rise to the top has left the golf world in awe, seemed unable to comprehend what he and his team had just achieved.

Celebrating with his father Gerry — who made so many sacrifices to help his son’s early career — McIlroy took time out to post on Twitter.

"Wow, did that just happen?" he wrote.

"Unbelievable performance from all the boys today! Seve... This one is for you!"

There seems little doubt that a comeback on a scale that had never been seen in 85 years of Ryder Cup history would have made the great Seve Ballesteros very proud.

Europe had started the day 10-6 down, and expectations were low — the US has never lost on the final day with at least a two-point advantage.

But the team — which included world number one McIlroy and fellow Northern Ireland golfer Graeme McDowell — simply refused to give in.

They pulled together to manufacture a major upset, winning eight of the 12 singles matches.

McIlroy, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie took the first five singles matches.

At 11-11, the impossible suddenly seemed possible. Nerves were shredded when the US went 12-11 up, but Lee Westwood drew Europe level and Sergio Garcia took them ahead before the last two matches — Kaymer versus Steve Stricker and Francesco Molinari against Tiger Woods.

In the last act on a day of incredible theatre, that included McIlroy coming within a whisker of disqualification, it was left to Kaymer to hole an eight-footer at the 18th to retain the Cup for Europe.

Then the crowd went wild, finally silencing the incessant chanting of "USA, USA" from earlier in the competition.

Darren Clarke, one of Europe’s vice-captains, said the Americans had been "expected to win at a canter".

The 2011 Open winner said losing would be a "tough pill to swallow" for the rival team — but was bursting with pride over what his own had accomplished.

"Obviously I’m excited about what the guys achieved. It was our biggest comeback on US soil," said the Dungannon golfer.

"I’m over the Moon.

"This is one of the greatest shows on Earth."