Wunder: The Ryder Cup Awards
By John Wunder
What good is a team competition if you can’t identify the individuals who provided the greatest contributions to the cause?
I was very proud to be a golf fan this weekend and I am confident that the game is in better shape than it was a week ago. The festivities at Medinah were like taking in the Star Wars trilogy over a long weekend. There were heroes, villains, ups, downs, comedy, drama and so much else to satisfy our pallets. It was epic.
Sure the U.S. Team lost but we have not fielded a “team” like we did in 2012 in more than a decade. What I mean is although I’m certain the team unity has been there in past years, it was never as visible as it was at Medinah. We had a ball club out there this weekend — each man was fulfilling a duty in the best way he knew how. In the end, the score (which should have ended in a tie, but that’s another story) concluded with yet another European victory. But this time, I, as an American golf fan, was not left scratching my head wondering why. It was a three-day competition where a great horse came from the middle of the pack to beat another great horse. It’s actually very liberating to not have to point the finger at someone. All I have are accolades to give.
So without further ado, here are the winners:
Rookie of the week: Nicolas Colsaerts
A complete and utter no brainer. Not only was he the only rookie on the European side, he announced his Ryder Cup debut on Friday afternoon with seven birdies and an eagle against Tiger and Stricker. He seemed completely unphased by the pressure. He did, however, finish the week 1-3, but a year from now we won’t remember anything but his performance on Friday.
Comeback player: Sergio Garcia
The Spaniard lost his first two matches of the week. But from Saturday afternoon foursomes to the his singles victory over Jim Furyk, Sergio pulled out the two wins that in my opinion broke the Americans back. Like his mentor Seve Ballesteros, Garcia won without his best stuff just by treating each hole as its own unique match. It was inspiring to watch and further strengthened my feeling that Sergio is always an asset in these matches. He possesses that Ryder Cup X-Factor that our top American veterans don’t have.
MVP: Martin Kaymer
I’ll probably take a beating for this one for not acknowledging Ian Poulter, but let me say this — Kaymer made the second most pressure-packed putt in Ryder Cup history. He not only redeemed his countryman Bernhard Langer — he redeemed himself. Despite the many questions about the state his game, he put his head down and drilled a putt to win the Ryder Cup. Nothing he will ever do personally in the game will trump that. As the great Ty Webb said, “Don’t worry about this one, you miss it, we lose.” Enough said.
Honorable Mention: Jose Marie Olazabal
If you study the footage and watch Olie throughout these matches, his reaction was stoic. He was a brick wall and that energy, even in times of defeat, gives players a sense of security. He never looked panicked or even really affected by what was happening. Like a great field general he waited until the final outcome was revealed to express his emotion. It was brilliant. To have that confidence when you aren’t the one hitting the shots is impressive. If the outcome was different he would have taken a beating in the press, unfairly in my opinion.
Rookie of the week: Keegan Bradley
Let’s identify what really happened for U.S. Golf this week — an American became a Ryder Cup team leader. With the smiles, fist pumps, bear hugs, passion and everything else, Keegan Bradley represented exactly what we want to see from our U.S. players. Granted, he lost on Sunday and squandered opportunities to become a golf immortal, but the fireworks he provided were awe inspiring. For the first time in a while, an American Ryder Cup player matched the energy of the crowd. Bradley allowed me to forget about the overall loss and appreciate the fact that we have an American that will energize us for years to come.
Comeback player: Phil Mickelson (via Keegan Bradley)
Phil was golf fan No. 1 this week. His play was up and down, but his enthusiasm and mentorship of Bradley was more than we could ask for. He took full advantage of his time with Bradley and rode the young stallion to a 3-0 team record. I agree he probably could have played on Saturday afternoon but his intentions were in the spirit of what was best for the team, a quality that gets looked over quite a bit with him. Phil has taken responsibility for the fact that his legacy on Tour is far more than victories in majors, it’s his ability to pass on his wisdom and enthusiasm to the younger guys that will carry it on. These young stars look to him to lead and he delivers. As a fan I thank him for that. It’s far more important to me than his record in these matches.
MVP: Dustin Johnson
DJ redeemed himself this week. After going 1-3 in Wales, he came back strong with a 3-0 record and holed a putt at the 17th hole on Saturday that at the time seemed to have the U.S. team on its way to victory. Although DJ isn’t the most emotional player, it was nice to see his reaction on No. 17. He had struggled all day and that putt forgave all previous sins. On Sunday his five-birdie victory over Nicolas Colsaerts provided the last bit of comfort U.S. fans would experience.
We kind of all won this week. It seemed like the Cup this year was three matches in one. Like great cinema we were privileged to watch great golf played with heart and a love of country. I hope this fire continues and I can’t wait until I get those goosebumps again. Like a pure golf shot off the center of the face, it’s those that keep us coming back for more.
Thanks boys. See you at Gleneagles in 2014.