Garcia vs Mickelson: The greatest match ever?
There have been countless brilliant singles matches over the long and storied history of The Ryder Cup, but never one quite like the titanic battle that unfolded between Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson on the final day of the 41st edition at Hazeltine National.
Jacklin versus Nicklaus in 1969, Faldo versus Strange in 1995, Mickelson versus Rose in 2012 – all great Ryder Cup matches, yes, but even those legendary clashes pale in comparison to this birdie-strewn epic in Minnesota.
While the enduring memory of The 2016 Ryder Cup might well be the a story of redemption for Davis Love III, who guided his American side to their first victory in the biennial clash since 2008 just four years after coming out on the wrong end of the Miracle at Medinah, match six on Sunday will go down in the annals as a true classic.
Garcia and Mickelson, who also met in the singles 12 years ago, when the Spaniard prevailed 3 and 2, found themselves pitted against each other again on Sunday in 2016 and produced a mesmerising display of scoring.
All in, the pair made 19 birdies between them, were a combined 18 under par with a better-ball score of 58.
Garcia didn’t make a bogey – one of just two Europeans with a flawless card on Sunday alongside Martin Kaymer – while Mickelson made ten birdies – more than any other player on Sunday – and shot 63 even with a three-putt to his name.
Ultimately, after Garcia matched his opponent’s closing birdie by holing a nerveless 15-footer at the last, it was an insane half point apiece.
This was match play golf at its entertaining, madcap best.
“It was amazing,” reflected a breathless Garcia afterwards. “Obviously to shoot nine under and end up tying the match, it was heart breaking. I gave it everything I had but obviously Phil just made it from everywhere and played well.
Asked about his putt to half the match at the last, he said: “Well, obviously there is pressure. But I was feeling quite comfortable because I love these moments. This is what I live for.
“I've been reminded that I haven't won a Major probably 300 times this week, but I love these moments. I love being in Ryder Cups. I love playing for my teammates. I love playing for Europe.
“Even if I never get a Major, it doesn't matter, because these moments, nobody can take away from me.”
Mickelson was equally astounded by the tie and was asked whether he’d ever seen a match like it.
“Probably not,” said the American. “At least that I've been involved in. This was a hard fought battle today and there was a lot of emotion.
“It was a good day, we made a lot of birdies! I thought that we both played really well and it was probably fitting in the end to have it a tie.”
Having been on the end of eight losses in The Ryder Cup in his 11 appearances, even sweeter for Mickelson was the taste of team victory.
He said: “I'm so proud to know these guys, to experience this together, to share these emotions, to celebrate tonight.
“When put in the right environment, the US team brought out some of their most amazing golf. We're bringing home the Ryder Cup because of it.”