LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Years from now when we replay the 2008 Ryder Cup Matches, the final highlight will be the ponytailed, potbellied Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez, conceding a three-footer to Jim Furyk on the 17th green that clinches the cup.
But it was J.B. Holmes' come-from-behind win over Soren Hansen that sealed the deal for the United States.
And Furyk knows it.
"My apologies to J.B.," Furyk said afterwards. "If I would have sucked it up and knocked that putt in on 16, J.B. would have closed it out on 17."
After three blowout losses in the Ryder Cup Matches, the American team can't be too picky about how they finally won back the Cup. But it was Holmes' match versus Europe's Soren Hansen that was the game-changer Sunday.
One of Paul Azinger's four captain's picks, Holmes used his trademark massive drives, clutch shots down Valhalla Golf Club's back nine, and one seriously lucky break to win Sunday's key match in front of a raucous home crowd thirsty for his long ball.
"To be able to do it in my home state," Holmes said. "I couldn't in my farthest dreams have imagined this thing to play out like this."
The hometown Holmes was the recipient of the day's biggest "member's bounce." After Hansen birdied the 15th hole to pull the match all square, Holmes hooked his drive dead left on the insanely long and tight par-4 16th hole.
However, the ball miraculously found it's way through the trees, kicked down the hill, through a jam-packed gallery and found its way barely into the left rough. That left him a wedge shot onto a green that most players had been hitting to from the woods all week.
Holmes took advantage, sticking his approach to six feet and made birdie on a hole that saw a stroke average of .7 over par, taking a one-shot lead into 17.
He didn't leave his drive to chance here, ripping another massive tee shot down the center cut, leaving just 75 yards in. He then stuck his approach to inside two feet, clinching the match and leaving Furyk, 2-up at the time on the 16th hole versus Jimenez, to be the hero.
For the third day in a row, a low-key, largely emotionless Hansen faced off versus the hometown long-bomber.
"He definitely didn't hit that many awkward drives today," Hansen said. "He hit it quite long. But quite long is probably an understatement."
"Coming down the stretch, he just hit the better shots, and that was the key to his win," Hansen said.
The biggest change in Holmes' singles play was his ability to win holes that weren't par 5s. Playing with Boo Weekley on Saturday, Holmes' only birdie came on the par-5 seventh, followed by an eagle on the par-5 10th. Holmes bogeyed and double-bogeyed those holes today, but came through on the par 4s.
He scored six birdies on the day, none on par 5s.
In the day's fifth match, Kenny Perry faced Sweden's Henrik Stenson. Perry took the lead on the second hole and never gave it up, despite playing with pain down the stretch.
"I figured this was going to define my career, but you know what? It made my career," said Perry, who birdied four holes in a row from No. 2 through 5. "I had great touch, great feel, had great confidence and had a great calm about me today."
Perry has said all year that playing in the Ryder Cup Matches was his goal, and he turned in one of the best years of his career at the age of 48. Azinger said he and Holmes each handled the pressure of being the hometown boys masterfully.
"They came in here with an attitude of everything to gain and they exploited it," Azinger said. "I think Kentucky should be proud."
September 22, 2008
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
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