European Ryder Cup victories have a habit of identifying unlikely heroes. Eamonn Darcy in 1987, Christy O’Connor Jr. in 1989, Philip Walton in 1995, Costantino Rocca in 1997.
Add Phillip Price and Paul McGinley.
Through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune came the Welshman and the little man from Dublin. Price’s 3-and-2 victory over Phil Mickelson will be forever trooped out as evidence that anything can happen in 18-hole match play. Precisely what Torrance had been saying all week.
McGinley’s 9-foot par putt for a half-point with Jim Furyk and the 141⁄2 points needed for outright European victory will be replayed in Ireland for generations.
As Ryder Cup upsets go, Price defeating Mickelson was as dramatic as it gets. The Welshman came into The Belfry ranked 119th in the world. Mickelson was 117 spots above. It was David vs. Goliath on a grand scale. He was an automatic point for the United States in everyone’s book.
Price had his sports psychologist Alan Fine with him at The Belfry. Maybe it was the chat they had Sunday morning that spurred him on to play the best golf of his life against Mickelson. Maybe it was being questioned for four months why he was playing lousy. Maybe it was the guy who asked him if he thought he should withdraw from the European team.
Price was not only 5 under when he defeated Mickelson by holing a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th green, but he hadn’t dropped a shot. He proved that he deserved to be part of Torrance’s team.
“I’ve had quite a period of time with a lot of negativity surrounding my form,” he said. “I heard someone comment ‘Do you think you should withdraw from the Ryder Cup?’ I was quite hurt.
“Sam and the team made me feel so welcome. I got made to feel that I was part of the team and that I was going to make a contribution. That was very important to me, and it had a lot to do with what I did today.”
McGinley didn’t play as well as Price played, and in Jim Furyk he faced a guy he always had a chance against. Yet, he will go down in history as the man who won Europe the cup. The man who stroked in a gutsy 9-foot par putt for the half-point and everlasting glory.