Martin Kaymer holed the putt that clinched the Ryder Cup for Europe, but there was no mistaking its star. Ian Poulter became the first captain’s pick to go 4-0, and he might have won them all if Jose Maria Olazabal had not held him out Friday afternoon. There were only four matches all week when a team or a player was behind at any point on the back nine and rallied to win. Poulter was involved in two of them.
His career record is now 12-3, the highest winning percentage of any European player in history. Poulter effectively locked up a spot on the team for the next several years, and Lee Westwood even went so far as to jokingly suggest a change to the qualifying process for Europe.
“It’s nine spots, two picks, and Poults,” he said.
_ Tiger Woods as the anchor.
Curtis Strange was criticized in 2002 for sending out Woods in the 12th and final match Sunday at The Belfry for two reasons. His point might be irrelevant at that stage (it was) and he would not be able to contribute to any momentum from an earlier spot in the lineup. Davis Love III did the same at Medinah.
Woods actually was in the right spot. He just didn’t deliver.
The Americans needed to see Woods take control of his match against Francesco Molinari, knowing they would be assured a point in that anchor match. Woods fell behind two holes early. He took the lead for the first time on the 13th hole, and the match was still square with two holes remaining. The last time Woods was in that spot, in 2002, he built a 2-up lead early against Jesper Parnevik, didn’t put him away and actually trailed after 15 holes.
His half-point was irrelevant as far as who won the cup. It could have, and perhaps should have, meant something.
The PGA of America devotes an entire page to rookie records in the Ryder Cup. Love said all week, and the PGA of America should take note, that there really are no rookies in the Ryder Cup. Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Martin Kaymer (PGA Championship) had won majors the year they made their Ryder Cup debut. Yes, the pressure is more intense at the Ryder Cup than any tournament, but it’s that way for the veterans, too.
The four American “rookies” went 9-6. Two of their best players were rookies _ Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley, both of whom were 3-1. Dufner might have won all four of his matches except for Poulter finishing a fourballs match with five straight birdies.
_ The next captain.
Paul McGinley is the leading candidate for Europe, a decision with strong influence by the players. Nothing is clear for the U.S. team, a decision by the PGA of America.
There seems to be a template for the U.S. team that captains be former major champions in their late 40s. That would point toward David Toms, who played on three losing teams. Fred Couples gets a lot of attention, but the Presidents Cup is far less stressful than the Ryder Cup, and he doesn’t have a lot of support from within the PGA of America. Larry Nelson is a popular choice because he was overlooked. He’ll be 67 in 2014. And there is some thought to let Paul Azinger be captain again.
The last American who was captain more than once was Jack Nicklaus. That was in 1987 at Muirfield Village, and that didn’t turn out very well.
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