x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Jose Maria Olazabal says they won the Ryder Cup for Seve Ballesteros

And Rory McIlroy got a little help from a friendly State Trooper, while Martin Kaymer thought about Bernhard Langer before his final putt.

Rory McIlroy nearly missed his tee-off time.
Rory McIlroy nearly missed his tee-off time.

Jose Maria Olazabal, the European captain, reflected on the best week of his life after his side’s record-equalling comeback to retain the Ryder Cup.

Olazabal’s side trailed 10-4 at one point on Saturday afternoon and were still four points down going into yesterday’s singles, exactly the same margin from which the home side won in controversial circumstances at Brookline in 1999.

But after being on the receiving end of last-day heroics 13 years ago, Olazabal was able to enjoy the “Miracle at Medinah” as eight of his team won their singles matches and Francesco Molinari’s half point against Tiger Woods completed a remarkable win by 14.5 points to 13.5.

“This has been a very special week,” said Olazabal, whose team were dressed in the colours of the late Seve Ballesteros yesterday and had a silhouette of the former Ryder Cup captain on their bags all week.

“Seve, it’s the first time that he’s not here with us at the Ryder Cup. I do have wonderful memories from my matches with him. He was a very special man and he’s very close to my heart.

“All these guys sitting here in this media room know how much this week has meant to me. I get emotional about it but I want to thank them for what they did today. They gave me the best week of my life.

“And I’m just glad that I had the 12 men on my side ready to give their best during the whole week.

“The start of the week was a tough one. Nothing went our way, but these guys kept on believing, and I’m sure that not just the silhouette, but the phone call Seve made last time at Celtic Manor in 2010 and all the images of Seve around the clubhouse, the locker room and things like that, kept that spirit alive.

“So it’s not just me. I think these guys did it also for him.”

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An unknown state trooper had a major hand in the biggest last-day comeback in the event's history.

Europe needed a fast start to have any chance of victory, but Rory McIlroy found himself going a little faster than he bargained for simply to get to Medinah.

Thinking that his match with Keegan Bradley started at 12.25pm, McIlroy was still at the team hotel when he got a panicked phone call telling him he had 25 minutes to get to the first tee.

"I read the tee times on my phone and they are obviously on Eastern time and it's Central time here," the world number one explained. "I was just casually strolling out of my hotel room when I got a phone call saying you have 25 minutes.

"I have never been so worried driving to the course. Luckily there was a state trooper outside who gave me the escort, if not I would not have made it on time.

"I was like, 'Just get me there, get me there.' He was like, 'Do you have motion sickness?' I'm like, 'No, I don't care, just get me to that first tee.'"

Two minutes late and he would have forfeited the opening hole against Keegan Bradley, five minutes late and he faced disqualification, but to the relief of every European he arrived in an unmarked car with 10 minutes to go.

Former captain Colin Montgomerie, whose side had the advantage of staying on site for their win at Celtic Manor in 2010, said: "That is absolutely ridiculous at this level. It's quite unbelievable for the world number one golfer. How this happened I do not know.

"Where is the captain? Where are the vice-captains? Where is his caddie?"

Fortunately for McIlroy, he is not a player who needs to spend hours on the range and after a quick warm-up on the putting green, he went out and beat Bradley - who had won all three of his matches with Phil Mickelson - 2&1 as Europe won the first five matches on the course.

Asked how soon he calmed down, McIlroy added: "As soon as I got here. If I warm up for 40 minutes it's a long time anyway. I warmed up for 25 minutes before I won the (US) PGA this year. It was nearly a good thing because I did not have to think about it too much."

Team-mate Sergio Garcia, who experimented with not warming up during his loss for form, joked: "We actually were talking yesterday after dinner and he [McIlroy] said to me, 'You know, when you went through that year without warming up, how did it feel?'

"I said, 'You know, it's quite interesting. The best thing about it is you always come out to the course with the right attitude, because it doesn't matter how bad your shot is on the first tee, it's the best shot you've hit that day.'"

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Martin Kaymer admits he thought about Bernhard Langer before holing the putt that so dramatically kept the Ryder Cup in Europe's hands last night.

At Kiawah Island in 1991 Langer missed a six-foot putt on the final green that gave America victory.

Kaymer was left facing the exact same length putt against Steve Stricker at Medinah - and holed it.

"I did think about him, especially when I walked around the hole and read the putt from the other side," the 27-year-old said.

"There was a footprint in my line (with Langer it was a spike-mark), but it was not that bad.

"I thought 'okay, it's not going to happen again, it's not going to happen again' and to be honest with you I didn't really think about missing.

"There was only one choice you have - you have to make it.

"I was not that nervous. I was so very controlled because I knew exactly what I had to do.

"But if you ask me now how that putt went and how it rolled, I have no idea - I can't remember.

"When it went in I was just very happy and that is something that I will remember probably for the rest of my life and hopefully I can talk about when I have some grandchildren one day."

Kaymer was approached by captain Jose Maria Olazabal on the 16th hole to be told his game was absolutely vital.

"He told me 'we need your point and I don't really care how you do it - just deliver'.

"But I liked that. That's very straightforward - that's the way we Germans are."

sports@thenational.ae