Conventional wisdom suggests that you place one of your strongest players in the anchor position in case the drama and excitement of the Ryder Cup comes down to the final pairing. In that vein, two of the stalwarts teed off knowing that the ownership of the Ryder Cup might very well come down to their contest. And as the matches in front of them unfolded, it became apparent this would become the critical match to decide who would carry the Cup away from Celtic Manor. Hunter Mahan played tremendously consistent golf, reeling off par after par. That is a great strategy in many circumstances, but not against the reigning U.S. Open champion. Graeme McDowell’s birdie on the 13th gave him a seemingly insurmountable 3-up lead. But Mahan refused to wither and, after a McDowell slipup on hole No. 14 and Mahan’s first birdie at No. 15, McDowell’s lead was down to a precious 1 up. The entire European team -- and continent -- seemed to be out on the 16th hole when McDowell faced a delicate 15-foot birdie putt, and when the putt dropped, the crowd erupted in a noise that could have been heard back in the United States. Needing just a halve on the two remaining holes, McDowell hit a safe shot on the par-3 17th, where Mahan’s tee shot came up short, and a few minutes later he conceded the match, and possession of the Ryder Cup, to McDowell, who thrived under the intense pressure of the final match.
The Ryder Cup was decided after Hunter Mahan stubbed a chip on the 17th hole and eventually made a bogey, conceding the hole and the match to McDowell. But McDowell’s birdie putt on the 16th hole will go down in Ryder Cup history as one of the most clutch and impressive of all time.
Team USA Quote
"I've played with Graeme before. I don't even know what day it was. But he didn't miss a shot. I think it was alternate shot, and he played he played great today. Didn't miss a shot. Hit a bunch of key putts, probably the last four or five holes, and you know, he that birdie on 16, after I got it to 1 down, was huge. He played he just beat me today." --Hunter Mahan
Team Europe Quote
"The U.S. Open felt like a back nine with my dad back at Portrush compared to that. I was really nervous there. I was nervous, wow. It's a different feeling. It's just so much pressure." --Graeme McDowell