Inserting the most obvious and easy reference to “like a fine wine, Lee Westwood gets better with age”, The European Tour saw one of it’s finest vintages claim one of the Premier Cru prizes in winning the first Rolex Series event of 2020 at the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Lee Westwood, Your Golf Travel’s Chief Holiday Officer, claimed his 25th title on The European Tour with a 4-round total of 269 (-19) including rounds of 69, 68, 65 and 67. Holding off a chasing pack, 2 shots back, including Tommy Fleetwood, France’s Victor Perez, who both closed with 9-under par rounds of 63 and one of Yorkshire’s finest in Matt Fitzpatrick.
Westwood’s victory saw him climb inside the world’s top 30 and secure invites to the World Golf Championships, Majors – although he’d already got his Masters invite courtesy of a stellar showing at Royal Portrush in 2019, 1st place in the very early standings of The Race to Dubai and a cheque for €1,047,741.36.
Westwood became the 4th Englishman to win the event following in the footsteps of Paul Casey, Robert Rock and Tommy Fleetwood. It is perhaps past Abu Dhabi winner Robert Rock, who famously held off a chasing Tiger Woods, that is so closely linked to Westwood’s victory.
Having started working together in a swing coach / player capacity in November 2019, Rock has worked with Westwood to hone a swing that has gone onto win in yet another decade. Rock describes himself as an “old school golf pro” has quite a stable of golfers and is considered to be one of the most knowledgeable swing gurus in golf.
Despite splitting his time between coaching and playing, Rock has enjoyed success on both sides of the ropes. With Westwood’s victory, Rock’s stock looks set to raise yet further as golfers seek out an additional edge.
With his 2nd Rolex Series Event victory, after winning in South Africa in 2018, Westwood has now won in 4 different decades on The European Tour. His first victory came in Sweden when the then 23-year old had just started making his way in professional golf following a stellar amateur career.
The Worksop native now looks set for a fantastic 2020 with yet further opportunities arriving at his doorstep. Whether that is The Olympics in Japan, Westwood is currently the 5th Ranked Britain behind Rose, Fleetwood, Casey and Fitzpatrick, or a visit to Whistling Straits for The 2020 Ryder Cup.
This would be Westwood’s 11th appearance and despite Lee’s immediate dismissal of playing in another one following his victory, surely if he can continue this form, he’ll be joining the playing rather than Vice Captain role as part of Padraig Harrington’s European Team.
Whatever the rest of 2020 has to offer Westwood, January is sure to be a celebratory one, although the toughest decision is likely to come shortly and whether or not he breaks his “Dry January” and enjoys a drink – I think most will forgive him, if ever there was a reason to break Dry January, claiming one of the jewels in The European Tour’s Crown is surely up there.
We can confirm Dry January was out of the window following the win – well played again Lee
There are a number of reasons why golfers love going on group golf holidays; some live for the sunshine, others just enjoy playing different courses but for many, it’s about being on holiday with your mates.
I’m here to delve into what makes travelling in numbers so appealing, as well as some top tips for when you plan your next trip away.
When deciding on who you should go on a golf holiday with, the criteria might look something like this:
Must be able to play golf
Must be able to afford the trip
Doesn’t annoy the life out of me
We recommend not excluding too many friends, though, because when it comes to golf holidays, more is always merrier…
Everyone loves a bit of banter amongst friends, even if you’re at the butt of the jokes, but camaraderie on the golf course is what makes it that much better.
Quite simply, our very own YGT Rory sums up the importance of having fun with your mates perfectly:
“There’s nothing more fun than being sat on the clubhouse veranda, beer in hand, watching your mates struggle their way up the final hole before joining you for a drink. Being the golfer doing the struggling while your pals jeer you from the veranda is also pretty funny if you have a good sense of humour.”
Getting a group of people to do anything is a challenge regardless of the price, but the more it costs, the less likely everyone will commit.
Same goes for a golf holiday, but unlike a drink at your local pub, getting everyone together will actually save you money.
The fact of the matter is, the more people you travel with, the cheaper it’s likely to be; on many of our packages we offer a free trip for one guests when you travel in groups of eight, 12 or 16.
Then, if you book during one of our promotions, you can also receive even more added extras like airport lounge passes, a new driver or even a separate free golf break.
The long weekend is a favourite with travellers around the world; three nights, four days (depending on flight times) seems to be the perfect length of time for city breaks, excursions and now golf breaks.
Thursday to Sunday are popular days to travel, but if you wanted to save on some money, how about considering Saturday to Tuesday; the courses might be a bit quieter too.
Mainly though, these three night, four day packages are perfect for experiencing all the golf, enjoying a local night out and keeping your friendships intact.
Hangover + Hungover Friends + Early Tee Time = Bad Golf
All inclusive holidays for large groups have become the most affordable, convenient and popular choice for golfers in recent years.
Firstly, finding holiday accommodation for large groups is tough enough, so when you get the opportunity to all stay together, close to the course, you should really take it.
And while they are often more expensive than any self catering packages, your spending money is significantly less; it seems concept of eating and drinking at your will without having to pay is one many enjoy.
With large groups come more opinions, more chance of disagreements and someone not getting what they want. This usually comes when deciding where to eat or go out drinking, which is no problem with all inclusive packages, as everything is onsite and requires a lift down from your room.
At this stage your group golf holiday is looking a bit more structured, we have a large group heading to an all inclusive resort for a long weekend.
But where to?
At risk of sounding like a broken record, Turkey really is the mecca of all-inclusive golf holidays, with Belek home to some simply outrageous five star resorts.
The effortless luxury is incredibly appealing to all golfers, with the plush resorts, championship courses and welcoming locals all coming at an affordable price.
Cornelia Diamond is certainly up there with the best that Belek has to offer, and for a group holiday, has it all.
Telling your mates you’re planning a group golf holiday to sunny Spain, close to the Andalucian coastline and you’ll get to play at one of the region’s best courses, is sure to make you popular.
Montecastillo is able to offer everything Andalucia has built its reputation upon; the Jack Nicklaus designed course, met with a five star hotel and an enviable location are all perfect for large groups.
Want to sample a snippet of what it’s like at Montecastillo? Check out the 17th from our Greatest 18 series
Despite being one of the most sought after golf destinations in Europe, the Algarve isn’t actually renowned for all-inclusive golf holidays, however is great for groups.
Sao Rafael Suites provides fantastic accommodation in a central Algarve location, just 35 minutes from Faro Airport and amongst many of the region’s top courses, including Morgado Golf & Country Club.
Morgado’s golfing pedigree shouldn’t go unnoticed; host of the 2017 Open de Portugal and home to three amazing courses, the venue is perfectly set up for large groups looking for both quality and variety.
So you have some inspiration on where to go, but how will you make it interesting? We have some ideas…
Whether you like to admit or not, whenever you and your mates get together for a round of golf, there is always an element of competition.
I’m not judging, we all do it.
But if you’re going to compete, at least have fun while winning, here a couple of great formats for group golf holidays.
Why not create your own Ryder Cup?
If you take our advice and have three days to play, split into two teams and have the first two days as Fourballs/Foursomes and finish with singles.
In time for the last night of your holiday, the losers can get dinner or drinks to celebrate their victory and the end of your trip.
This is a fantastic format for getting the most enjoyment out of the week. It takes the pressure off each individual which often brings out the best in everyone’s game and still allows for some friendly competition. Ideally, you would hope to be under par for each round so why not stick with the same teams all week and award the team with the lowest aggregate score with a bountiful prize?
For more information on Group Golf Deals simply call free on 0800 043 6644.
Escape the city at one of our featured Top 5 Golf and Spa Hotels near London. These are more than just your average golf break. Exciting courses and luxury accommodation with plenty of relaxation and pampering available, it is definitely time to book that weekend break!
Often believed to be a male or female dominated domain, golf and spa have often been kept different as guys and girls retreat for their respective lads and ladies weekends. However, in recent years, some outstanding resorts have come to prominence to combine the two. Golfers will enjoy championship golf while spa goers will relax and enjoy all that the wide ranging, all encompassing spas have to offer – for those seeking the total leisure retreat will divide their time between the two!
We take a brief look at what the excellent two leisure pursuits of golf and spa have to offer for those wanting to get away from London for a great weekend escape.
Based in Chandler’s Cross, Hertfordshire, just three miles North West of central Watford, it is the ideal location for a city getaway. The rich greens provide a spectacular course that will not disappoint. The championship course provides a varied par-3, par-4 and par-5 holes that are certainly stimulating for all handicap golfers. As a chosen venue for football teams prior to their trips to Wembley the hotel perfectly combines five-star luxury in a relaxed, yet exclusive atmosphere.
The experience continues passed the golf course and to the Hotel. The Grove provides a choice of quality restaurants to choose from; although Colette’s fine dining experience serves food to excite your taste buds. Complete your visit by luxuriating in the spa facilities, which include a beauty salon, Jacuzzi and an indoor swimming pool. The Sequoia Spa is a tranquil place to relax and get away from it all, with a wide range of award winning treatments, it’s easy to see why so many enjoy day spa and spa break packages. Needless to say a break to the Grove ensures that you have escaped the city in style.
Marriott Hanbury Manor is situated in Ware, Hertfordshire, only 26 miles North of Central London. The stunning course represents the beauty of the walled gardens and the surrounding open land, complete with greens that create an enjoyable, yet testing challenge.
There is a range of restaurants for you to experience. The Zodiac Restaurant serves continental fine dining and boasts 2 AA Rosettes. An informal ambiance and international cuisine can be found in the Oakes Restaurant at Marriott Hanbury Manor. Or if you would prefer, the Oak Hall and Cocktail Bar provide the perfect atmosphere for your relaxing drink or aperitif.
Staying at Marriott Hanbury Manor is without doubt, a luxurious experience which provides for those staying for leisure or corporate reasons. Take advantage of the selection of spa treats, including a Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.
A mere eight miles North East of Maldon, Five Lakes Resort is located in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex. Five Lakes offers two golf courses for players to enjoy: the Lakes Course is the focal golf course to the resort. Its creation involved input from Neil Coles and includes plenty of hazards to take your score away from old man par.
The Links Course may be a little shorter than its more famous golfing sibling; however the challenge is more brain than brawn with accuracy key to beating ones handicap. This 36 hole resort is popular with couples and groups alike, drawn in by the extensive facilities within the four-star resort.
The Camelot Restaurant at Five Lakes Resort serves fresh food from the coast off Essex, including famous Blackwater oysters. Rooms at Five Lakes truly cater to your needs during your stay, and what’s more, the hotel has extra features including a sauna, indoor swimming pool and several sporting facilities to tempt you even more to visit Five Lakes Resort.
Having played host previously to many national sporting teams, this golf and spa hotel is one of the best equipped leisure resorts in the UK.
Located in Donnington, Berkshire, only 59 miles west of Central London, Donnington Valley is in a magnificent countryside setting that will entice you away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The golf course builds in difficulty testing your stamina and provides stunning views of the Grade II listed Snelsmore house, which is used as the club house.
Your skills will be challenged on the ‘Big Dipper’ 15th hole, which at more than 600 yards will test even the John Daly’s of this world. The course is testing for the more experienced golfer but will be equally enjoyed by those of lesser ability with a passion for a challenge.
The hotel and spa have recently undergone a multi-million pound investment, making your stay a guaranteed luxurious experience. There are several room types all at high quality standards, although the executive rooms are even more lavish for those after the best.
There is plenty to do at Donnington Valley; spend your time in the swimming pool, sauna, steam and aromatherapy rooms, amongst other facilities. Without doubt, Donnington Valley is a top quality break from the city!
With a film-star pedigree ranging from rom-com favourite Bridget Jones’ Diary to James Bond, it’s easy to see why Stoke Park fits so perfectly into a golf and spa break. This luxuriant resort is easily accessible for a relaxing break, based in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire and just 23 miles west of central London. The course made the Top 100 Golf courses list in Golf World 2005; beautifully designed by Harry Shapland Colt and known for its exquisite style. With three nines to enjoy, the 27 hole layout provides a varied challenge for all who play it.
The signature hole is found at the par-3 7th which is often considered to be one of Colt’s finest designs, having formed the inspiration for Augusta National’s Golden Bell 12th hole this short hole offers not only a visual but also high tariff test. With water protecting the front of the green and bunkers the rear, it’s easy to see why Mackenzie and Jones replicated this simple yet effective design in their creation of the 12th at Augusta National.
The hotel at Stoke Park has a total of 49 rooms split between The Mansion and The Pavilion, all of which provide the best facilities to ensure you have the most relaxing stay. There are three choices for dining at Stoke Park, including the Dining Room for modern cuisine with beautiful views and San Marco for Italian dishes to delight.
The Spa facilities at Stoke Park include a sauna, Jacuzzi, massages amongst other treats for a fabulous break away from the city. Boasting its own spa brand in the opulent SPC products, guests are assured a five-star spa break that they will not forget.
For more information on Golf & Spa breaks simply call free on 0800 043 6644.
Golf breaks at the some of the world’s best five-star golf resorts have become more affordable than ever, with a plethora of Ryder Cup venues, major championship courses and world famous golf and spa destinations now offering extraordinary rates, if only for limited periods of the year, allowing us all to sample golf at its best. But there are resorts out there with such hefty reputations you’ll always have to pay a huge premium.
Frankly, many aren’t worth breaking the bank for, but there are a select few destinations that we’d consider trading in our car, mortgage, PC, job, wives or husbands for that matter, in order to experience their unique levels of luxury, service and the phenomenal golf courses just the once. If the world’s best golf courses and five star luxury appeals to you then read on…
California, United States
The Resort at Pelican Hill can only described as extraordinary. Located in Southern California, between the exclusive communities of Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, it’s blessed with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and over 340 days of sunshine every year. It’s a short drive to the art galleries and festivals of Laguna Beach and to Crystal Cove Beach, which features surfing, sunbathing, walking trails and three miles of pristine sands.
Spoiling guests rotten is obviously part of the agenda – there are world-class restaurants in classic al fresco settings, a luxurious Spa and 36 holes of brilliant golf designed by Tom Fazio, plus 18 holes at nearby Oak Creek Golf Club to enjoy – but it’s the ambience that makes Pelican Hill so special. The relaxed sumptuousness takes inspiration from 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, best known for his grand homes across the Venetian countryside. Like the Mediterranean, the sun-drenched climate of Southern California allows for indoor spaces to open up to the outdoors and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
Pelican Hill’s Bungalows feature limestone fireplaces, private ocean-view terraces, hand-hewn wood beam ceilings and marble baths. The Villas are even more seductive, set in an exclusive, gated enclave, with private clubhouse and pool, butler service and dedicated staff. In our opinion, they’re worth every penny.
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This resort might sound like a dangerous place to visit, but we can guarantee you’ll be safe and sound at Cape Kidnappers which is set in 6,000 rolling acres of beautiful land in New Zealand’s stunning Hawke’s Bay area. You might wish you were being held hostage, though, when you see the golf course. Designed by legendary golf architect Tom Doak, this par-71 track of 7,119 yards is set on cliffs overlooking the Pacific, and has been hailed as one of the great modern marvels in golf, consistently rated in the world’s top-50 courses.
In many ways Cape Kidnappers offers a New Zealand style take on luxury, with the great outdoors setting the tone. The 5-star lodge accommodations are designed along a farming homestead theme, there are lots of rugged outdoor activities, such as farm tours, walking trails, quad biking, mountain biking and trout fishing, to name a few, and the Luxury Spa sits on a hillside, above the Lodge, with outstanding vistas of the sapphire ocean. The Spa treatments are comprehensive and couples can enjoy some serious indulgence together in the Spa Suite.
Balancing all this is the most civilised of dining experiences. The eating spaces at Cape Kidnappers, a member of Relais & Chateaux collection of the finest hotels and gourmet restaurants in the world, each have unique features. Choose from the Wine Cellar, the Loggia, the small dining room, or the Snug for special occasions, where fine cuisine is prepared by award-winning chefs, including the finest New Zealand lamb and beef and the best local produce and seafood.
French Riviera, France
When you’re blessed with a region that enthralled the likes of Cezanne and Van Gogh, you have a great platform for creating one of the world’s finest golfing retreats. The hotel certainly takes advantage of this paradisiacal region’s stunning natural advantages creating a resort at Terre Blanche, located in the hills behind Cannes.
The sun-kissed slopes are home to richly opulent self-contained executive suites and free-standing villas, set within a series of intimate one- and two-storey buildings. The generously sized accommodations show their Provencal spirit with natural wood and stone finishes. All offer separate living rooms and bedrooms with contemporary, comfortable furnishings, and captivating views of the hillsides from a private terrace.
The two 18-hole, par-72 championship courses – Le Riou and Le Château – designed by golf legend Dave Thomas – are sublime and make the most of the lush hills and valleys. Together with a world class golf academy, Michelin-starred dining, and an ultra-stylish Spa set within a majestic hillside villa, this really is a resort that once visited will never be forgotten.
California, United States
If your requirements stretch to stratospheric levels of luxury and a legendary Major Championship course, you’ll be a hard punter to please indeed – but don’t despair. There are few golfing thrills like teeing-up for the first time on Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. You really sense the presence of golf’s biggest legends here, especially from the many dramatic US Opens its witnessed – Tom Watson chipping in at 17 to deny Jack Nicklaus back in ’82, or Tiger taking the golfing world by storm with a 15-shot winning margin in 2000.
Designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant back in 1919, the links hugs the rugged coastline, providing wide-open vistas, cliffside fairways where you can feel the ocean spray and hazardous sloping greens. You can combine Pebble Beach with rounds at The Links at Spanish Bay, a challenging Scottish links-style course, and the wonderful Spyglass Hill, which many locals consider to be the toughest course on the Monterey Peninsula. Guests of The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero enjoy special booking privileges for these courses.
The Lodge, in particular, offers fantastic personal service and has been a legendary haven for discerning clients since the ‘Roaring Twenties’. It hugs Pebble Beach’s 18th green, providing glorious views and engendering a golf-rich atmosphere that is almost unrivalled. The Old Course Hotel overlooking the Road Hole on the St Andrews Old Course is one of the very few that can claim to be in the same bracket, it really is that good.
There aren’t many resorts that can claim to have it all, but Le Touessrok, surely, is one of them. Truly wonderful scenery, fantastic climate, pristine beaches, superb food, world class golf course, and rooms and grounds that are second to none are the main attractions. The resort is set on a beautiful stretch of white-sand coastline overlooking the tranquil Trou d’Eau Douce Bay in Mauritius.
Across the water are the resort’s two islands – Ile aux Cerfs, with its spectacular championship golf course designed by Bernard Langer, and Ilot Mangénie, an island retreat exclusive to guests, both a short ride away by private boat. The course, as you’d expect, is exquisite. With four sets of tees for each hole it is suitable for all standards of player and its generous fairways and small, undulating greens allows it to entertain as well as challenge. However, it’s the overall experience of staying here that will stay with you long after you’ve left, and particularly the levels of service.
Le Touessrok seems to get it just right, down to the last detail. During your round, for instance, you’ll be served water and fruit kebabs every five holes or so. The Langer Bar and Grill on the island is exceptional and can be charged to your room. The Givenchy Spa is fabulous, as are the tennis courts and the kids club. The Saffron restaurant is deservedly renowned; the pools are stunning and temperature-controlled. Leaving won’t be easy, but the resort staff have, typically, done what they can to take the sting out of it a little by offering a packing service on the last evening. They really do think of everything.
As the fans and teams gathered for the 2016 Ryder Cup, the pressure was firmly on Team USA. They had last won in 2008 at Valhalla, they needed a win. Team Europe had all the momentum and were flying high thanks to a strong win at Gleneagles in 2014 and other recent results. The last time the Ryder Cup was held on US soil was the so called ‘Miracle at Medinah’, that most dramatic of sporting comebacks. The 2016 Ryder Cup was held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota. David Love III faced-off against Darren Clarke that week.
During the 2014 Ryder Cup, there was some trouble in the US ranks. Tom Watson was captain of Team USA but some of his team didn’t agree with how he managed the tournament. As questions were raised over his selections, the results added to the pressure on Watson. At the end of that week, the American players decided they had had enough of losing. Phil Mickelson was at the centre of the Team USA Task Force and vowed to improve how the team worked. The 2016 Ryder Cup would be the first time that this team had competed since the work of Mickelson’s taskforce. The pressure would be on him to show that his mutiny was worth it.
Just before the Ryder Cup started that week, Arnold Palmer died. This was an incredibly sad moment for the world of golf as they lost a true legend. ‘The King’ was one of the real greats and a true gentleman. Arnold Palmer was one of the first golfers from the ‘municipal’ course background, and he brought golf to a wider audience for the first time. In honour of the great man, his bag from the 1975 Ryder Cup where he was the US captain, was placed on the first tee.
For years, Team Europe had been fighting for the memory of Seve, and he had helped them from the golfing heavens. Now the Americans had a late hero to dedicate a win to. Would it be the event that helped galvanise their efforts? All the players were clearly moved by Palmer’s passing and this week became a celebration of his great life.
The arena for that week was one with great heritage but it wasn’t so well known when it was announced as the host course. In April 2002, Hazeltine National was selected as the host course for the 2016 Ryder Cup. Later that year the course held its first major, the PGA Championship.
The 7,678 yard par 72 course was designed by Robert Trent Jones and was first opened in 1962. In 1970, the US Open was held at Hazeltine and was won by Tony Jacklin. The course is a lush setting for golf with grand trees and large water hazards to avoid. The greens at Hazeltine National are as much a part of the protection of the course as any other features. They are slick and contoured, if you put the ball on the wrong portion of the green you could be in trouble. This is a wonderful golf course that all golfers will love.
That morning, it was clear that even under the pressure of the first tee of the Ryder Cup, the players were taking a moment to reflect when they saw Arnie’s bag. They were taking a moment to think of the great man and pay silent respect to him before the battle got underway.
In a wonderful twist of fate, not for the Europeans, the Americans came out and won the first session 4-0. This had not happened since 1975. Yes, the year that Arnold Palmer was the Team USA captain. That bag and what it represented had helped give the home side the perfect start.
This session saw some great matches and none better than the Rose/Stenson vs. Spieth/Reed match-up. In recent Ryder Cups, these groups had been stand-outs. This was like an all-star match and an incredible group to open the event with. The Americans would take the tie 3&2 sending a message that even their golden boys weren’t safe. A 5&4 win for DJ and Kuchar in the last match of the session was another signal that Europe was in for a tough week.
Europe were left reeling, things had definitely not started to plan but it was only the first session, they could turn it around. In what seemed like a gutsy move, Captain Clarke went for Rose and Stenson to lead the team out again. As the teams were announced, they saw they would be facing Spieth and Reed again, payback time.
The Europeans came out to show strength and send a message. A 5&4 win. This was exactly what the visitors needed during the second session. A big early statement win over the special pairing of Spieth and Reed. The fight had begun. That win was quickly followed by a 3&2 win for the all-Spanish pairing of Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello. That week, Europe had six rookies in their team. Without doubt, this would be challenging for Darren Clarke, but he had plenty of experience in there to balance it out too. That win for Garcia and Rafa would settle some nerves for sure.
Team USA had only two rookies that week. One of them, Brooks Koepka, took a big win in this session with a 5&4 win over Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett, another one of the European rookies. Clarke got another point on the board from a rookie with a win from McIlroy and Thomas Pieters. The session would end 3-1 in Europe’s favour bringing the overall score to 5-3. This must strong afternoon must have been a huge relief to Captain Clarke and his team.
There must have been some tension for Europe knowing that Saturday would start with foursomes. Having been swept on the day before, they needed to make amends. They had momentum though, the afternoon session had brought that. Clarke even decided to start-off exactly where they left. Pieters and McIlroy would be the lead-off pair. They would reward the captain for his faith with a big 4&2 win over Mickelson and Fowler.
The next game up would see that unstoppable American rookie, Brooks Koepka, partner with Brandt Snedeker for a point. The session would end in favour of Europe again and made the match incredibly tight after three sessions. A halved match for Reed and Spieth was another momentum-booster for the visitors. They were putting on the pressure. That 4-0 lead had shrunk to 6 ½ — 5 ½.
Clarke had a good thing going. He went for McIlroy and Pieters to lead-out the fourth session, it was working well. If Europe could put in another strong session, the match would be tight going into the singles and Europe would feel great about that. They won the first match. Pieters looked every bit as mature on the course as his experience partner, he wasn’t a typical rookie. They took that tie 3&1 and, what’s more, they defeated Koepka in doing it. The undefeated American rookie had his first taste of Ryder Cup defeat.
The remaining games on the course were tight. This was probably the tensest session of the match so far. Yet another win for Europe meant that that huge US lead had completely gone. The home crowd were clearly wary that this could be yet another Ryder Cup disappointment.
Then the red started to fill the leaderboard. The second game came in, Holmes and Moore came in with a 1 up win over the all-English Westwood and Willett. Then Kaymer and Garcia fell to Mickelson and Kuchar 2&1. The American crowd was starting to find its voice again. The final pairing out there for Europe was Rose and Stenson. This must have helped Clarke, he knew that his strongest pairing of recent Ryder Cups could help steady the ship before the final day.
It wasn’t as easy as that though, they were up against Spieth and Reed again. The American duo were as good as ever and took that final match 2&1. There was a reason that the Americans had been so annoyed not to see those two playing together more at Gleneagles, this was it. They got results.
The final score of the session would be 3-1 to USA. They were taking a good chunk of momentum into the final day with a lead of 9 ½ — 6 1/2. Europe had shown at Medinah that they would never come out without a big fight. The US had learned from that same Ryder Cup that the match wasn’t over until it was truly over. Everything was set-up for another great Ryder Cup Sunday.
This Ryder Cup will forever be known for one of the most incredible battles in the history of the tournament. Two of the younger members of each team playing the most incredible golf as they fought for a point. First out that day was Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed. It was electric. During that match there were some ridiculous shots and the crowd were in a frenzy watching it. Who could forger those putts on the par 3 8th? Reed had put his tee shot on the fringe about 15 feet left of the flag. McIlroy was at the front of the green and had a long putt over fifty feet.
The Northern Irishman seemed to know as soon as he hit the putt. It was tracking. He took a step back to watch it. The ball hit the back of the cup and dropped then he erupted. Rory cupped his ears and yelled to the crowd “I can’t hear you” as they booed him down. It was an incredible putt. Reed had gone from a good chance of winning the hole to needing this putt for half. Of course, in true Ryder Cup style, he drained it. Reed put his index finger up to McIlroy to let him know it wasn’t going to be that easy. The crowd went wild. McIlroy waited at the side of the green and gave his opponent a fist bump. That green and those moments there summed up the Ryder Cup perfectly. This match would eventually end with a 1up victory for Reed. It was a truly incredible tie.
Although that was the first match out that day, the first points came from the second tie. Stenson was playing Jordan Spieth. They call Henrik Stenson the Ice Man, there’s a reason for that. Knowing that in the number two slot you need a point for momentum, he’s the perfect man to take that role. He would take a 3&2 victory over the steady Spieth and reduce the US lead to just two points. The third match also came in with a victory for the European rookie, Thomas Pieters. That week the Belgian played in all five matches and brought in four points for his team. He was incredible and was clearly loving wearing the blue and yellow. He broke the record for most points scored by a European rookie.
We will never know, but had McIlroy managed to take a point from Reed, Europe would have won three points at the start of this session. They would have been flying. Rafa Cabrera-Bello won his match against Jimmy Walker as the fourth point to come in. The Spaniard, another rookie, had been equally impressive that week. He won two and a half points out of three. The home team now had only a one point lead.
Things were looking good for another possible away victory for Europe. They had fought hard all week after a crushing loss in the first session. Then they lost another point. Brooks Koepka, who had had a great week, defeated Danny Willett 5&4. A big win for the red team. Garcia and Mickelson halved their match. That took the score to 13-10, the US needed just a point and a half to take the trophy back. Was momentum shifting again? That was quickly followed up by another American point as Brandt Snedeker beat Andy Sullivan 3&1. Team USA were just half a point away. The scoreboard made for tough reading as the Americans were leading in a few matches now.
The question now shifted to that classic one on a Ryder Cup Sunday, who will get the point that wins it? That year, in a 1up victory over Lee Westwood, it was Ryan Moore. The US rookie played immaculate golf and Westwood just ran out of holes in the end. Team USA had won the Ryder Cup back after an eight-year wait. Then the red points started stacking up. Only one more European point would be won as Martin Kaymer defeated Matt Kuchar on the 18th. This was a huge win for the US, the final score was 17-11.
The crowd is the thing that makes the Ryder Cup special, having that ‘them and us’ atmosphere really helps golf. Having not won in a long time, the interest in the event from Americans was dropping. This win was so important for them. More importantly, the mini-mutiny at Gleneagles had been vindicated. Mickelson and his motley task force crew had delivered. Many disliked how he handled the situation with Tom Watson in 2014, but it worked.
This was a great win by the Americans. The crowd that week were as ferocious as expected and it really added to the event. There was a lot for this match to live up to after the incredible emotion and drama of the 2012 match at Medinah. It was a fantastic Ryder Cup and the win was dedicated to Arnold Palmer. The great man would have been proud of his countrymen that week. They deserved the win.
Sport has a wonderful ability to defy logic. Underdogs beating favourites and seemingly impossible comebacks all add to the reason we love the drama of sport. Golf is a great provider of drama. The 2012 Ryder Cup was one of the most incredible comebacks in sport. It was a comeback for the ages. That Ryder Cup Sunday may be the most emotional day in golf history. Today on the blog we will relive the “Miracle at Medinah”.
Team USA had won the Ryder Cup last time they played on home soil in Valhalla. Times were tough for the Americans as Europe had begun to dominate the event. Medinah was their chance to win a second home Ryder Cup in a row and show the visitors what they were made of.
Chicago is one of America’s great sporting cities. With teams like the Bears, the Cubs, the White Sox and the Blackhawks, sports are part of the fabric of the city. That week, golf would be a major part of the conversation. The Ryder Cup always has huge galleries. Everyone knew that this would be a rowdy crowd. Chicago was just 25 miles away from Medinah, after all. Davis Love III would be hoping to use those fans to help carry his team to a win. They needed one. Jose Maria Olazabal and his European team wanted a rare away victory.
The 39th Ryder Cup was being held at Medinah Country Club. Having the Ryder Cup here was a real treat. This is one of America’s great country clubs. Medinah is a PGA TOUR course and a five-time major venue. It is a truly grand club. There are three courses at the prestigious Medinah Country Club of which, Course No 3 is the most famous.
Tom Bendelow designed the course originally then work from A.W. Tillinghast, Roger Packard and Rees Jones created the finished product we see today. In preparation for the Ryder Cup, a renovation project took place on Course 3 costing around $1.5 million.
The 7,657 yard par 72 was a wonderful host course for the Ryder Cup due to the nature of the course. Medinah is a classic American inland course. There are plenty of risk versus reward decisions to be made as you make your way around the course. The course is packed with hazards. Trees, bunkers and water hazards all punish errant shots but the shape of the course tempts you to take risks. The hostile atmosphere would be another hazard for Europe. The home fans hoped that this fortress would be the site of a victory.
The teams were published. Captain Olazabal started his Ryder Cup with a proven pairing. He went for Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell as they had played together three times at Celtic Manor in 2010. Team Northern Ireland. They faced Furyk and Snedeker, two of the steadiest golfers on earth, and would win 1up. Team USA took the next two matches with wins from Mickelson/Bradley and Dufner/Z. Johnson. The all-English pairing of Rose and Poulter gave a strong finish for Europe to end the session at two points apiece. The 2012 Ryder Cup was on its way. It was a tight affair.
The afternoon brought some troubling events for Team Europe. The Americans started with a huge 5&4 victory from Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. This was a sign of a rough afternoon ahead. This emphatic win sparked a strong session for Team USA. That Mickelson and Bradley pairing that had worked so well in the morning worked again as they won 2&1. This would become a key partnership. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar also worked well together for a win over Rose and Kaymer.
The first three matches brought red points, some resistance was needed from the visitors. Europe needed a point. Thankfully, Lee Westwood, a European Ryder Cup regular was in the final match with Nicolas Colsaerts. They put a blue point on the board with a last hole win over Tiger and Steve Stricker. Finally some blue. USA took the session 3-1 taking the overall score to 5-3 in favour of the US.
That morning the players warmed-up on the range. Would USA dominate the foursomes again? It was clear from the team selection that Captain Jose wanted to stop the rot with some blue points. He went with Ian Poulter. The European Ryder Cup hero would lead off with Justin Rose hoping to get an early point for his side. They did their job. They sealed a 1up victory over Watson and Simpson. This European point was overshadowed by a crushing 7&6 victory for Team USA in the second match. Davis Love’s men smelled blood. They wanted to put more pressure on their visitors. The crowd were getting more and more hostile and things were becoming tough for the Team Europe.
Wins from Dufner/Z. Johnson and Furyk/Snedeker would seal a second 3-1 session win for the home side. The momentum was firmly in the American camp as the score now at 8-4. Europe were in a bad place. The home side had a chance to set-up a fairly easy Sunday for themselves with another strong afternoon. They wanted to put the hammer down.
Things were looking bleak for Team Europe. The afternoon session continued on the same theme and yet more American points came in. Team Europe couldn’t stop the red points. Wins from Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar then Bubba Watson/Webb Simpson took the score to 10-4. There are 28 total points available in the Ryder Cup. The magic number is 14½. This meant that Team USA, with 14 points still up for grabs, needed 4½.
Thankfully, Europe took the next point. The score was 10-5 to the home team and there was only one match left out on the course. Thankfully, for the visitors, that match included Ian Poulter. One thing Poulter is known for is his passion during the Ryder Cup. He is this generation’s Seve and a Team Europe hero. He and Rory simply had to win their point. They would go all the way to the final hole to win 1-up against Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner. A rare European point. The importance of that point may never be fully appreciated. It was a vital glimmer of hope.
10-6 going into Sunday isn’t good. There was no other way to look at it, a miracle was needed. A European win form here was surely impossible. As the holders, they only needed to get to 14 points to retain the trophy, but even that seemed like a mammoth task. Europe had a secret weapon. This was the first Ryder Cup that had taken place since the death of Seve Ballesteros in 2011. Seve is a Ryder Cup hero. He was also a close friend of Olazabal. Captain Jose Maria wanted nothing more than to honour his late friend with a win on US soil. He needed the spirit of Seve from his players.
It is hard to imagine the words that must have been said that morning to Olazabal’s team. These times show what leaders are made of. Losing a Ryder Cup is a painful experience for any golfer but this loss would hurt more. The team would have been well aware of the uphill battle that awaited them, but they were ready for the fight. They needed a fast start. Jose had no choice but to ‘front-load’ his team. Europe needed early momentum. Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy were the first three Europeans to the tee. Nothing short of a point from each of them would work.
Rory was nowhere to be seen. As mentioned above, he was out third and by all measures, he was late. Thanks to a mix-up with time zones, Rory was an hour late in leaving for the course that day. Given that Rory usually doesn’t get to the course until about an hour and a half before he tees off, this made things really tight. Things were so tight that Rory needed a police escort to get there on time. His tee time was 11.25 and he was playing against Keegan Bradley. Olazabal later said, “All of a sudden we realised Rory was not here. My heart was beating quicker than expected.” With just ten minutes to spare, Rory rolled into the car park of Medinah in an unmarked police car. As he made his way to the tee, American fans chanted “central time zone” at him.
Luke Donald was first to put some blue on the board with a 2&1 win over Bubba Watson. That was the first test passed. Paul Lawrie was playing incredibly, he won his match second with a 5&3 win over Brandt Snedeker. So far, so good. Game three came in with a win for McIlroy. Just as well for him he brought in the point after putting the captain through the stress of the morning.
All of a sudden the score was 10-9. Momentum was firmly with Europe and the course was eerily quiet. Another European point came in. Ian Poulter took a 2up victory over Webb Simpson. The match was tied. It is often said in sport that if you believe in a cause that goes beyond just yourself then great things happen. There is little doubt that athletes draw on forces greater than themselves in order to do the great things that they do at times. That week, Europe had Seve. Team Europe had emblems of the great man on everything that week. He was on their bags, stitched onto their shirt and truly at the forefront of their minds. There is little doubt that the spirit of Seve helped drive the team back from the brink and into an incredible position.
The 5th point came in from this session, it was America’s of the day. Finally the European onslaught had been stopped, but it was just a short break. The 6th point was for Europe. Who could ever forget the putt that Justin Rose rolled in on the 17th to level the match? That set him up to take the match on the final hole and keep the comeback alive.
The match was now 11-11. Things were getting tense. Neither team could believe the position that the match was in. Europe were still flying but at least the Americans had steadied the ship. The rest of the games out on the course were tight so it was really on a knife-edge.
The 7th point went to the US after a win from Zach Johnson over Graeme McDowell. Europe quickly followed that up with two points and were, unbelievably, in the lead. Olazabal’s team now needed just one point to retain the Ryder Cup. This was a situation that wasn’t supposed to be possible.
After Jason Dufner beat Peter Hanson on the last hole, the match was tied again. Two matches remained on the course, only two more points. Those last two matches both ended up on the 18th hole at the same time. Kaymer and Stricker were on the green, Molinari and Woods were on the fairway, Tiger was 1-up. Medinah was silent. Stricker made his par and forced Kaymer to make a 5-foot putt to win the match and that all important 14th point. The German had only played once that week so far, this was proper pressure.
They could still win it though, if Molinari could win the last hole and get a half point, Europe would win it rather than just retain it. He did it. Europe had comeback from the dead to win the Ryder Cup and the Miracle at Medinah was complete! Then came the emotion. The players were delighted. This was a different kind of Ryder Cup celebration, this was one mixed with disbelief and emotion. Jose Maria Olazbal was in tears. He had managed to drive his team to victory and honour his best friend. He would later go on to say that it was the greatest day of his life and who could blame him. This was as special as sport gets.
The Ryder Cup is team golf at its finest. The 2012 Ryder Cup was a historical and emotional one. These are three days that will live forever in the golf history books and deservedly so. What that European team did on that Sunday was a sporting miracle. They did the impossible.