MEM­O­RIES OF ME­D­I­NAH

I’ll never be able to top win­ning The Open Cham­pi­onship at Carnoustie in 1999, but be­ing a part of the Mir­a­cle of Me­d­i­nah comes a very close sec­ond

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or me, noth­ing I achieve in my ca­reer will ever match vic­tory in The Open Cham­pi­onship at Carnoustie in 1999. That goes with­out say­ing. But the fi­nal day of the 2012 Ry­der Cup at Me­d­i­nah is a close sec­ond. It was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­ing part of a Euro­pean team that over­hauled a four-point deficit to win by one is some­thing that will live with me for­ever.

It was a come­back that ac­tu­ally be­gan the evening be­fore. We were all buzzing when we came in off the course af­ter watch­ing Ian Poul­ter birdie the last five holes to win his four­ball match along­side Rory McIl­roy. The at­mos­phere in the team room was trans­formed, even if we were ac­tu­ally fur­ther be­hind than we had been 24 hours ear­lier. Cour­tesy of Ian’s heroics, we knew we had a life­line.

The meet­ing that evening was the short­est of the week. All we talked about was the or­der of play for the last-day sin­gles. It was so im­por­tant to get the line-up right. I was sit­ting there pretty ex­cited. With help from as­sis­tant cap­tain Dar­ren Clarke I had found the key to the putting prob­lems that had plagued my first two matches. My back­swing had be­come a lit­tle too long, so I was in­stinc­tively de­cel­er­at­ing the put­ter head through im­pact. But by short­en­ing my stroke I was sud­denly mak­ing ev­ery­thing on the prac­tice green.

Any­way, be­fore I went into the team room I told Dar­ren I would like to play early in the sin­gles line-up. I knew we needed to get quick points on the board and I felt like I was play­ing well enough to help. On the sur­face, of course, that was a big call. But I had the feel­ing all golfers get some­times. I was ‘ready’ to play well. I didn’t say this to any­one, but I knew that who­ever I was up against the next day was go­ing down.

Dar­ren re­ported my feel­ings to our cap­tain, Jose Maria Olaz­a­bal. I don’t know how that con­ver­sa­tion went. But if I had been Jose I’d have been won­der­ing why a guy who had lost two matches was feel­ing so con­fi­dent. He took me at my word, though, and he put me out there at num­ber five, which put me un­der a bit of pres­sure. As Jose had made clear, it was vi­tal we win the first five matches. That would give the guys at the back a fight­ing chance to win the cup.

As it turned out, I played as well as I thought I might. I ac­tu­ally had the best fig­ures of the day on ei­ther side. When I shook hands with Brandt Snedeker on the 15th green I was six-un­der-par.

FThe keys to that win were my putting and get­ting off to a fast start. I made a great par putt on the 3rd green and re­acted with a bit of a fist-pump, which I don’t nor­mally do. But it was such a mas­sive putt to make. One hole later, I chipped in for a birdie to go 1up. It was a lovely shot off a slightly down­hill lie. The ball landed in just the right spot, checked and rolled in like a putt. And when I made an ea­gle three at the par-5 5th I was re­ally off and run­ning.

All of the above gave me a huge shot of con­fi­dence but it also put Brandt un­der a lot of pres­sure. That is key in match play. All of a sud­den he was 2dn to a guy who hadn’t missed a shot and was mak­ing putts. For him, that was al­ways go­ing to be a tough game to win.

I get asked a lot about the ef­fect spec­ta­tors can have in Ry­der Cup matches. I’ve played in two, both away from home, so I have never had a crowd cheer­ing me on. The Amer­i­can boys claim that the Euro­pean fans make it dif­fi­cult for them when we are at home. I don’t know about that. But I can say for sure that Amer­i­can fans can be a tough au­di­ence.

As ever, most of the peo­ple are great. But those shout­ing some of the stuff I have heard are not re­ally golf fans. Still, they pay their money and can, within lim­its, say what­ever they want. It cer­tainly isn’t worth com­plain­ing about. That’s a bat­tle we can never win. Be­sides, I have to ad­mit I quite en­joy that as­pect of the matches. The home crowds on both sides of the At­lantic should be par­ti­san and want their side to win. If you can’t han­dle that, you shouldn’t be there.

As you can imag­ine, the cli­max to the matches was un­for­get­table. When Martin Kaymer holed the putt that meant we would at least re­tain the tro­phy, I was stand­ing with my wife, Mar­ian, maybe 80 yards away on the 18th fairway. Poul­ter was there, so was Justin Rose and Jose our cap­tain. When the ball went into the hole – and it seemed to take for­ever to get there – I could see noth­ing but re­lief on our skip­per’s face.

A few min­utes later, Francesco Moli­nari halved his match with Tiger Woods and we had won the cup. It was time to cel­e­brate. And believe me, we did.

“We were all buzzing af­ter watch­ing Ian Poul­ter birdie the last five holes to win his four-ball. The at­mos­phere in the team room was trans­formed”

The Car­di­nal range is a new golf ap­parel and ac­ces­sories brand worn and en­dorsed by Paul Lawrie. Look out for more in­for­ma­tion about the collection at www.car­di­nal­golf.co.uk

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