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UK Quintet Gets Euros Off to Magnificent Start
Faced with a 10-6 deficit starting the singles matches, it was imperative that the Europeans get off to a momentum-changing start Sunday. And that's just what they did thanks to victories by their first five players - all from the UK.
England's Luke Donald edged Bubba Watson 2 and 1 in the first match and then fellow Brit Ian Poulter beat Webb Simpson 2-up, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy - despite showing up only 11 minutes before his tee time after confusing East Coast and Central time - got past Keegan Bradley 2 and 1, Englishman Justin Rose vanquished Phil Mickelson 1-up, and Scot Paul Lawrie routed Brandt Snedeker 5 and 3.
It wasn't until the sixth match that the Americans got a point when Dustin Johnson beat Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts 3 and 2 and Zach Johnson got past McIlroy's fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell 2 and 1.
But Spain's Sergio Garcia won the crucial eighth match 1-up against Jim Furyk when the Pennsylvanian bogeyed the final hole. Two more wins by England's Lee Westwood (3 and 2 over Matt Kuchar) and German Martin Kaymer's Cup-deciding 1-up win over Steve Stricker gave the Euros 7˝ points in singles and a hometown crowd-silencing 14˝-to-13˝ margin at Medinah Country Club for their 10th victory in the past 14 matches of the biennial competition.
Afterward, Donald, Poulter, McIlroy and Rose met with reporters and discussed the day's shocking turn of events.
LUKE DONALD: It was a big honor for me that Ollie had enough trust in me to go out and get that first point for Europe. That means a lot to go out first and lead the team, and I did what I had to do.
Q. You win the first point on Sunday in a Ryder Cup in your adopted hometown of Chicago. How would you best describe your emotions?
LUKE DONALD: Well, it certainly helped having some local support. It wasn't totally going Bubba's way. I felt a lot of love from the crowd, and just feel a lot of relief that that game is over. Bubba pushed me hard at the end there.
Q. Get something blue on the board -
LUKE DONALD: I don't know what I would have done going down 18. The nerves were starting to build and Bubba was putting some serious pressure on me. He made some great birdies and the chip in on 16 was unexpected but in this game, you've got to expect that. And after I hit that bunker shot - it was good bunker play, and it was nice to get the first point for Europe. There's a lot of blue early on in the first matches. Got a chance and got to cheer the boys on.
Q. How much do you relish the role of going first?
LUKE DONALD: Well, it's a big honor for me. Ollie had enough trust in me to go out and get that first point for Europe, that means a lot to go out first and lead the team and I did what I had to do.
Q. You win the first point on Sunday in a Ryder Cup in your adopted hometown of Chicago, how would you best describe your emotions?
LUKE DONALD: It certainly helped. I felt a lot of love from the crowd, and it just feels a lot of relief that that game is over. Bubba pushed me hard at the end.
Q. That was exactly the job that was asked of you from captain Olazábal, and it must be a great relief?
LUKE DONALD: You always expect them to push you hard and Bubba did that. I had my chance on 14 and miss read that putt. But you know, what can I say. It's a relief in a way to get it done. I didn't want to go down 18 being 4 up with four to play. Again, Bubba, that chip in was pretty amazing by him to keep the match going.
Q. Give us an idea of your feelings as the person being asked to lead out Europe when you know that you've got such a deficit to try and claw back.
LUKE DONALD: Well, it's a different pressure going out number one. I think Ollie expected a lot from me. He rested me on Friday afternoon for a reason to be strong for the end of Saturday and today, and I delivered two points. Hopefully it's good enough. The boys are going to have to push hard, but we're going to go out and there and cheer them on.
Q. Do you have any way of knowing how the other matches are going out there?
LUKE DONALD: I had a sneak peak look at the board a couple of times and it looked good early on. The boys were playing well. I think it's turned the U.S.'s way at the moment but these matches can change.
Q. This is your hometown but you're playing for Europe, so what a dynamic that is?
LUKE DONALD: It's actually been a great week. It's always tough to play away from home in a Ryder Cup, but I actually felt somewhat loved this week, even though I'm playing for the Euros. It was nice to hear all the cheers.
Q. What kind of responsibility did you feel in that opening match?
LUKE DONALD: I felt a lot. Ollie put that lead off man in my hands, and I had to go out there and get up early and put some blue on the board to inspire the others. I killed that tee shot down the first for me and I knew I was off and running. It was a fun match. The crowds at 17 want to see some matches. I wish I had made that putt on 14 but I didn't, I misread it, and Bubba played great on 15 and 16, and fortunately my bunker play came through for me.
Q. Give us a little insight into what was said and indeed done last night in the team room by José Maria in trying to galvanize the spirit on your side.
LUKE DONALD: We were coming off the momentum from yesterday afternoon. I think our spirits were low halfway through the afternoon, and when we came and won those last two matches, we really had a pep in our step. I think we just talked about it; that we still had a great chance; that we had an opportunity to make history; that Seve was watching down on us, and we hope the boys we hope some of Seve's magic can rub off on them coming home.
Q. Bubba never relinquished that lead, and you posted the first point of the day for the European side?
LUKE DONALD: Well, I had a lot of responsibility going out number one to try to get some blue on the board early, I wish I had done it a few holes earlier. Bubba put some pressure on me at the end and I was glad I held on.
Q. You are one of the best bunker players in the world, and you showed it here at the 17th?
LUKE DONALD: It's nice. This is a tough amphitheater to play in with everything going on. I knew Bubba had a tough chip, and if I could put it any closer. Feels great to give our team the best chance we can, and we still have an uphill battle but we are looking forward to it.
Q. This is a pro American crowd but there were an awful lot of chants here for you as the adopted son?
LUKE DONALD: I felt very much at home in a way. It was great to have all the cheers that I did. We wanted to do it for Seve. We wanted to show our grit. We've been known not being that great in singles, and we showed that we can win. It's going down in history. We talk about Brookline in '99, losing that one. We wanted to come back and show that we could win from behind, too. I think those last two matches yesterday afternoon were such a key moment in winning the Ryder Cup. It gave us the boost we needed. We were able to get off to a fast start today, and we did it.
Q. How much inspiration do you think you gave the rest of the team?
LUKE DONALD: Well, that was my job as the guy leading off was to go out there and get the first point and put some blue on the board early. Hopefully I gave the guys plenty of inspiration.
LUKE DONALD: More than you think, being down 10 6. We actually thought we had a good chance, and we proved it.
Q. Ian, first of all, congratulations on a great win. I saw you just look at that scoreboard, USA 10, Europe 10. What can you possibly be thinking right now?
IAN POULTER: An unbelievable week. I mean, last night we took such a lot from those last two wins. I mean, it was amazing to see the atmosphere change in that team room. The spirit, I mean, it just changed. You know what, guys were pumped up; for the first time this week we'd been beaten quite clearly, and we just felt there was that little glimmer of hope. You know what, whether it's this good man right on my left sleeve right now that's going to pull us through this or Ollie, I don't know. It's pretty special.
Q. Seve is trying hard, that's for sure.
IAN POULTER: Seve is trying hard. It's incredible. Unbelievable. That was a really tough day. Webb played pretty solid today. I didn't have my best early on and I managed to stick in it. Looking at that leaderboard right now, we have an unbelievable chance. We have a chance from somewhere we've never been before, and I'm so proud of the guys that have gone out early and managed to secure their points.
Q. First time you were up all day was on the 17th?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I just had to take it on. You know, this Ryder Cup is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes you just have to buckle up and hit a shot. You know, it came off on 17 and I just hit a pretty good shot on the last.
Q. 100 percent record for you, very many congratulations and they all came down to that second shot, battle royal with Webb today?
IAN POULTER: It was unbelievable. I didn't have my best golf earlier on and I made a few mistakes and Webb is a solid player and he was always going to be in the hole. I was out of the hole a couple of times early, I had to stick it in there. The boys in the front did exactly what they said they were going to do last night and that's try to bring a point home. It was just unbelievable. It was an unbelievable finish. It was very tense, and we have got a great chance.
Q. Can you quantify, can you describe what happens to you in a Ryder Cup that you can deliver these performances?
IAN POULTER: I don't know. You know, I love this format. I love the team. Everything about it. I just - I love it. I've got Seve on my arm, Seve on the bag, we've got Ollie. It's pretty special.
Q. Ten points apiece, how do you view the situation now?
IAN POULTER: The boys have just got to somehow come good. The team spirit last night in that team room was unbelievable. The buzz, the electricity, I just felt something might be possible today, and you know, we've never done it before. They have done it to us in '99, and who knows, it could be the greatest turnaround of all time for Europe.
Q. A great Ryder Cup and a great match today, a tough one?
IAN POULTER: It was a tough one. Webb is a gutsy player, and it was always going to be difficult. I didn't have my best stuff early. But I knew, you know what, if the guys early could pull me through, then we have got a great chance and that's exactly what's happened. We have got up, we won all those early matches, and we just need Rose
Q. We talked about the well documented coming in late, you got here at 11:14, 11 minutes to spare. How unnerving was the whole process for you this morning?
RORY McILROY: I was just casually walking out of my hotel room and got a phone call saying you've got 25 minutes until you tee off. I've never been so worried driving to the golf course before. Luckily there was a state trooper outside who kind of gave me the escort to here, and if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have got here in time. So just ran into the clubhouse, got my shoes on and picked it up on the first tee.
Q. At what point were you able to calm down a bit?
RORY McILROY: I calmed as soon as I got here. My warm up sessions aren't - if I warm up for 40 minutes, it's a long time anyway. I warmed up for like 25 minutes before I won the PGA this year, and it doesn't really -just to get loose, but I'm pretty loose anyway. It was probably a really good thing I didn't have to think about it too much.
Q. You guys have gotten off to a good start on the European side. How much belief was in the room last night that Europe could come back from this deficit?
RORY McILROY: There was a lot of positivity in there, especially the way we finished. Winning those two points was crucial. We've tried to carry that momentum into today, and we've sort of done that. But we need to go out and support the boys now in the middle of the order and see if we can get them home, as well.
Q. Everyone wants to talk about how you got to the course here this morning, tell us what happened?
RORY McILROY: I thought I was off at 12:25 instead of 11:25 and was casually making my way out of the hotel room door, and I got a call saying, you have 25 minutes till tee off. I was a bit worried then. But as soon as I got to the course I was fine and settled into the match and obviously delighted to win.
Q. How did it happen?
RORY McILROY: I read the tee times on my phone, and they are obviously on Eastern time and it's Central time here. So an hour back, so one of those things.
Q. Police escort to the course?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, police car, in the front of the police car. At least I wasn't in the back. No, police car and got here as fast as we could.
Q. Just tell us how you played after that obviously because great to take down a man who has been a bulwark for the U.S. side.
RORY McILROY: I played great. I was very solid out there today. Didn't really do much wrong. He made a few mistakes and I took advantage of that.
Q. So much going on behind you, how do you think it looks from a European point of view at the moment?
RORY McILROY: We got off to a good start but there's a lot of tight matches in the middle and the end, and if we can sort of turn around or get them to go our way, we still have a great chance.
Q. You told us Doral was the biggest win of your career. How would you compare the way you felt today in this match to that Sunday at Doral?
JUSTIN ROSE: Well, one of the wise old vice captains that we have on our team said this situation can prepare you to win majors. The Ryder Cup is as big as it gets, and to play Phil, I mean, he's a gentleman first and foremost, but he always seems to bring out the best in me. To make three putts like I did on the last three greens, I feel like that's just been a lot of hard work paying off, and I wouldn't say I've made three bigger putts back to back in my career ever.
Q. You're 1 down, two to play against Phil Mickelson, one of the world's best players and he's unbeaten this week with three points, try to describe what that feels like to win the last two holes to win the match.
JUSTIN ROSE: Having an eight foot putt to halve the hole on 16, to dig myself out of that game is incredible. I felt like we needed that point, as well, to have any chance. I haven't summed up the situation but a halve - I was just playing. He was looking confident like he was going to make that chip and just missed and I buried it on top of him, and that was one of the best feelings of my life to make that putt. And 18, now I know how Ian Poulter feels. I had a glance down and looked at my left sleeve, and that's the kind of stuff he would have done today.
Q. Things are incredibly tight. Can your buys do this? Can this get done? It would be incredible.
JUSTIN ROSE: Man, who knows. I think we can. That's going to shape things up a little bit. If we can just get one of those - there's three 2 ups out there on the golf course. If a couple of those guys start to wobble, it's going to get awfully tight.
Q. 1 down, two to play, how did you dig that out?
JUSTIN ROSE: I'd like to know and I'd like to bottle it up for the future, absolutely. Also I made a big putt on 16, I made an 8 footer on top of Phil there and that was the first time I really showed any emotion all day and that sparked me to bigger and better things the last two holes. But those are the three biggest putts I've ever made back to back in my career under pressure. I just said to myself, over the putt on 18 I was shaking a little bit and I said to myself, I haven't putted well the whole week, and I said to myself: Rosey, this is what the whole week could come down to for you. If you miss it, might feel disappointed, but if you make this putt it's going to be a good week for you. And just did what I had to do. Coming off the green here, I've looked down on my left sleeve and that's the kind of thing Seve would have done for sure.
Q. A lot of guys are saying that. You said yesterday that if you were to get a bit of momentum today, it might unnerve this place a lot. Getting a sense of that now?
JUSTIN ROSE: Well look at that board, the first five guys have just done what we had to do. That's just amazing. So we are all going to get back there, support our boy, put the pressure on the Americans. If they hang on, good luck to them but we have given it everything today. I'm proud of the boys so who knows a bit of fortune and this could be an incredible day. Phil is a gentleman and I've always thoroughly enjoyed playing with him and against him. Unfortunately for him he seems to bring out the best in me. I've beaten him head to head now three times in match play and there's no doubt he was up for the game today.
We had a really good match, I think I was 5 under and Phil played well. We both hit key shots down the stretch. It was a ding dong battle and one of those games someone had to lose. But for us, that could be a massive point. I don't know, I haven't quite figured out what's going on behind us, but it is close which is going to be fun.
Q. If you were to script a more magical moment, I don't know if you could diagram, it birdie, birdie on the last two holes, including a long one on the 17th to earn a point.
JUSTIN ROSE: I'm just going back in the match in my head right now, I plugged it in the bunker on 15 in two, up and downed it out of a plugged lie and got a way with a halve there. Buried it from eight feet on Phil at 16 and then birdied the last two. That was really an incredible get out for me. We had a great game who the whole day. I enjoyed Phil's company; he is a gentleman out there on the golf course, and we both played as hard as we could.
Q. Did you think of Seve today?
JUSTIN ROSE: When I walked, obviously in the moment, you've got to do what you've got to do, but as soon as I holed that putt, as soon as I came off the green, my first thought has been to Seve, absolutely. You know, he's been an inspiration for this team all week long, and who knows, if something crazy happens today, I know that we are going to be looking upwards.
The transcripts for the above interviews are courtesy of ASAP Sports.