Sunday, September 30, 2012, will forever be linked with one of the greatest sporting comebacks in history.
Like a football team 3-0 down at half-time, Europe faced a massive uphill battle to win or even retain their Ryder Cup crown heading into the final singles matches at Medinah Country Club in Illinois.
The American team, led by captain Davis Love III, had been rampant. They held a 10-6 lead on Saturday night and required just four-and-ahalf points to claim victory.
Europe, skippered by popular Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal, looked to draw inspiration from the late Seve Ballesteros, who had died of cancer the year earlier, as they looked to mount one of the most sensational fightbacks in Ryder Cup history.
An impeccable European record – six wins in the last eight tournaments – was on the line for Olazabal and his charges. Eight points out of 12 were needed to retain the cup and eight-and-a-half for the outright win. It didn’t take long for Europe to set their stall out.
Four wins in the first four matches brought the scores level at 10-10. After futher toing and froing on the leaderboard, Jason Dufner’s win over Peter Hanson in the 10th game made it 13-13.
It meant that a point for Europe in the penultimate match between Martin Kaymer and veteran Steve Stricker would be enough to retain the cup.
Kaymer, of Germany, had endured a poor run of form leading up to the tournament. But the 27-year-old showed no signs of any trouble with his game at the 18th as he rolled in a five-foot putt to complete the comeback with one match still in progress.
In the final pairing, Tiger Woods missed a putt on the 18th and conceded the hole to Francesco Molinari, halving the final point and securing outright victory for Europe.
Kaymer, now a two-time Major winner, talks about that putt, advice from fellow countryman Bernhard Langer and drawing inspiration from Seve’s legacy…
How were you feeling heading into the 2012 Ryder Cup? Were you concerned about your form heading into the tournament?
2012 was obviously different to 2010 or 2014, but overall I felt OK. I was not concerned at all, even though my form was not the best at that time.
What was the course like at Medinah?
A very strategic golf course, lots of trees and tough around the greens.
Can you talk us through the build up to your crucial putt?
There was not that much thinking at all, I just wanted to make that putt. For me, it was a great gift that I got. That is what you do as a junior on the putting green, imagine that you have six-footers for the Ryder Cup, for Majors, etc. Actually, I was more nervous a few weeks later when I watched it on TV.
How does the euphoria of being the man to hole the winning putt to clinch the Ryder Cup compare to your other successes in golf?
I will never have more pressure on the golf course than in this moment. Obviously, every tournament win, and especially the Majors, are very special, but those are more for yourself. The Ryder Cup is all about the team, Europe, your country. Being part of that group makes a putt like this more special.
Did that putt help revive your form and give you a boost?
I wouldn’t say so. But it gave me the confidence that I can handle every pressure situation on the golf course.
2012 was dubbed the ‘Miracle of Medinah’, you must be incredibly proud to have played a starring role in one of the greatest Ryder Cup comebacks of all time?
The whole team did a great job on that Sunday. Of course it feels very good and makes you proud that you have been part of that team. The Americans played some great golf and had a solid team, did that make Europe’s victory even sweeter? Not at all. It was just an incredible comeback from us.
What advice did Bernhard Langer give you before the Ryder Cup?
And did you draw inspiration from his Ryder Cup heroics? It was very important for me to talk to Bernhard Langer about the Ryder Cup. He gave me some very important insights and told me about his experiences to make it easier for me to understand in a better way what the Ryder Cup means and what it is about.
What was Jose Maria Olazabal like as a captain?
He is a very emotional person and did a great job as a captain. Due to his friendship with Seve Ballesteros we heard a lot of stories about former Ryder Cups. Very inspirational.
The victory was dedicated to the late Seve Ballesteros, there must have been a lot of emotion in the camp, especially as a European win looked unlikely heading into the final day?
Definitely. We talked about that on Saturday night and always believed in ourselves.