LOCICERO: Complete choke by the U.S. at Medinah

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Michael LoCicero

What a complete choke job by the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Up 10-4 at one point on Saturday and needing just 4 1/2 points to win the Ryder Cup back from Europe, the Yanks melted faster than Jay Cutler under pressure.

The scene at Medinah Country Club was joyful and full of energy the first two days, with Keegan Bradley showing the world that he may be the next young gun.

Bradley and Mickelson wiped the floor with their first three opponents, winning in blow-out fashion.

The four rookies (Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker) were a combined 9-6-0.

Rory McIlroy almost missed his tee time, arriving just 11 minutes before his 11:25 start time because he confused the time zones. Had he been disqualified, Europe would have lost a full point.

So how exactly did the U.S. blow what looked like a sure win?

Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk. There is no other way around it. The trio, which has played in a combined 18 Ryder Cups, went 1-9-1.

Of the 13 1/2 points the U.S. earned through three days, Woods and Stricker combined for exactly 1/2 of one point, with Woods earning the meaningless half point after Kaymer closed out Stricker (and the Cup) just ahead of Woods’ final match with Francesco Molinari.

Furyk is now a dreadful 9-17-4 in his eight Cup appearances.

It’s pretty simple, though. Nobody is afraid of Woods anymore. When he was in contention on a Sunday before 2009, he was going to win. Now, his erratic swing and reluctance to be part of a team have killed the U.S. in two straight Ryder Cups.

The atmosphere and patriotism was electric the first two days at Medinah. I found myself awake at 9 a.m. on a Friday when I didn’t have class just to watch the morning four ball teams.

I screamed and clapped when the good guys holed a huge putt. I cursed Ian Poulter and his death stare when he made clutch putt after clutch putt on Saturday afternoon. I mean, really, Ian, five straight birdies?

Give a ton of credit to the European team, however. They needed eight points out of 12 matches on Sunday to tie the largest comeback in Cup history and did just that. The U.S. also came from four points down on the final day in 1999 at Brookline to win.

When Europe won the first five singles matches on Sunday to take the lead for the first time, I sensed it was over. Poulter closed out Simpson two up to finish 4-0-0 this year and 12-3-0 in five Cups overall.

Davis Love III’s captain picks didn’t exactly pan out for the U.S., either. Other than Dustin Johnson, Love’s three other picks, Snedeker, Furyk and Stricker, went a combined 2-8-1. The captains share a lot of the pressure, and Love’s choices will be remembered as big failures.

My question is, how long will this linger in the minds of the American players? Furyk left the 16th hole on Sunday one up against Sergio Garcia. By the time he walked off the 18th green, he had lost.

After missing an eight-footer on 18 that would have halved the match, his nightmare of a season was complete. If you remember, it was Furyk, not Webb Simpson, who should have won the U.S. Open in June.

Kaymer made one of the most clutch putts in golf history, a 6-foot knee knocker with everything on the line after Stricker had made a clutch putt of his own. It was reminiscent of the putt fellow German Bernhard Langer missed in 1991 at Kiawah Island that allowed the U.S. to win the Cup.

“We’re all kind of stunned,” Love said after the Cup was over. “It’s a little bit shocking.”

A little?

DESIGN:

Print: michael.locicero@marquette.edu.

Online: @michaellocicero

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