Clarke invokes spirit of Medinah
They say that the captain stays fast with the ship through still and storm.
And with Team Europe left requiring a Medinah-esque comeback in the Sunday singles following a tumultuous Saturday afternoon at Hazeltine National, Darren Clarke insists his battered troops might well be down heading into the final day in Minnesota, but they are certainly not out.
Four years ago, José María Olazábal led Europe to an incredible comeback win in Chicago after the Spaniard’s team started the final day four points adrift of Davis Love III’s American side.
Now, after the home team claimed victory in three of the four fourballs encounters on a sun-soaked, red-flooded Saturday afternoon, Clarke will require an about-turn of similarly immense proportions if his team are to return the iconic Samuel Ryder Trophy to European shores.
“We faced some inspired golf by Davis's team and they played very well,” admitted Clarke. “We were obviously disappointed with this afternoon's results from a European point of view, but there are still 12 points to play for tomorrow.”
The Northern Irishman has elected to send out Rory McIlroy, who has won three points from four matches so far this week, in the first match on Sunday morning with his compatriot set to face the in-form Patrick Reed from 1104 local time.
In 2012, Team Europe won the first five matches to create a tide of blue early on Sunday and Clarke will be hoping for a similar impact this time around after packing the top-end of his singles draw with the likes of Open Champion Henrik Stenson, red-hot rookie Thomas Pieters and veteran Justin Rose.
“Being three points behind, we've got to go out very strong,” Clarke continued. “There are some wonderful games that we're all going to see tomorrow out there, obviously starting off with the first one with Patrick Reed, who played fantastically well today, against Rory who has played fantastically well all week.
“In Medinah, they were four points behind, one point worse than what we are now. But teams have come back from that deficit before. So it's still game on.
“There are 12 points to play for tomorrow. We are currently three points behind. But I've got a team that, yes, while they were disappointed when we came off the golf course, as naturally they should be, there is still positivity there.
“We sat and had a team meeting afterwards with the players and the caddies, and some of the players spoke up, and we had a really good, strong discussion. Those guys fully believe that they have the talent and the desire to put a result in tomorrow.”
Playing in the penultimate head-to-head tie in Illinois four years ago, Martin Kaymer holed the all-important putt that retained the trophy at Medinah and the German has been positioned in the identical match this time around.
“It wasn't randomly, no,” Clarke said of Kaymer’s place in the line-up for an intriguing clash against the experienced Matt Kuchar from 1254.
“Martin has worked so hard this week and has been a great part of the team. He has spoken up in team meetings, as I would expect from a double Major Champion.
“He's down there tomorrow. We've gone through the list and tried to put people where we wanted to put them specifically. Justin Rose, for example, likes playing at number four. He's had great success playing at number four. And Martin, as well, is down there for that reason.”
Like a great vessel caught in turbulent waters, the good ship Team Europe might well have been rocked on a rollercoaster Saturday but they have endured, survived and prevailed before so why not again this time?
Two days down, one to go. Roll on the Miracle in Minneapolis?
Captain Clarke will certainly be hoping so.