Medinah to McIlroy, the top 10 stories from Europe in '12

Europe's Sergio Garcia, left to right, Luke Donald and Justin Rose celebrate after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill.

Europe's Sergio Garcia, left to right, Luke Donald and Justin Rose celebrate after winning the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill.

My season began in Abu Dhabi and ended in Turkey, and took in a lot of events in between. So here are my top-10 highlights of the European season.

• • •

1. Medinah Miracle

I know “miracle” might sound a bit over the top, but Europe’s comeback victory in the Ryder Cup was the stuff of sporting miracles. Throw in unbelievable, unforgettable, magical and you come close to describing what happened in this year’s Ryder Cup. Europe was actually 10-4 down on Saturday evening, yet somehow won. It was by far the best moment of the year for European golf.

• • •

2. Poulter’s Passion

How Ian Poulter can get so pumped up and still have the nerve to hole decisive putts under so much pressure is amazing. Europe would not have won the Cup if not for his five-birdie finish on Saturday afternoon alongside Rory McIlroy to beat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. That point was crucial. It gave Europe belief going into the singles. Jose Maria Olazabal’s team rode that belief to another victory.

• • •

3. Ollie dedicates victory to Seve

I’m not ashamed to admit there were tears streaming down my face when the Olazabal dedicated Europe’s Ryder Cup victory to his late friend Seve Ballesteros. One of the game’s true gentlemen, somehow it wouldn’t have been right if Olazabal had been denied that moment.

• • •

4. GBI finally win Curtis Cup

Another stirring comeback came in the Curtis Cup at Nairn, Scotland, when Great Britain & Ireland won the match for the first time since 1996. It seemed all over when the U.S. took a one-point lead heading into the singles. Only once in 25 matches had the U.S. lost the title going into the singles with the lead. Yet GB&I took the session 5-3 to win 10 ½–9 ½ and end 12 years of misery.

• • •

5. McIlroy moves to another level

Graeme McDowell said it recently when he claimed his Northern Irish compatriot was “in a slightly different stratosphere than myself. He’s a phenomenon.” He certainly is, and proved it in 2012. Another major, the PGA Championship, four other wins, winner of both the PGA and European Tour money lists all proved why he is World No. 1. It’s scary to think how good he could get.

• • •

6. Paul Lawrie rolls back the years

Paul Lawrie is one of the best stories of the 2012 season. For the Scot to win twice and make the European Ryder Cup team is outstanding. He is a great ambassador for Scottish golf through the work he does with youngsters in his foundation. Lawrie called making the Ryder Cup team at age 43 the highlight of his career. This from a man who won the 1999 Open Championship.

• • •

7. Portrush Praise

Not enough regular tour events are held on classic courses, so to see the Irish Open at Royal Portrush, one of the world’s great links, was a sight to behold. Thousands of golf fans flocked to this little corner of Northern Ireland to make the event a true success. Royal Portrush deserves another Open Championship.

• • •

8. Olesen builds on rookie season

Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen arguably should have been European Tour rookie of the year in 2011 but lost out to England’s Tom Lewis. The affable Dane proved why this season. Olesen won his first tour title, the Sicilian Open, and posted another six top-10s to finish the season No. 15 on the money list. Lewis, meanwhile, placed 117th with just nine made cuts out of 26 events. Let’s hope the Englishman can find his way back to join Olesen.

• • •

9. Roger Chapman wins two senior majors

Chapman never quite lived up to expectations on the regular tour, winning just once in over 619 attempts, the Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open. So to see him win the U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Senior PGA Championship was one of the good news stories of the European season. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

• • •

10. Ko laps the field

New Zealand would have won the World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey if Lydia Ko had been a one-woman team. Ko finished the tournament as low individual, taking that honor by six shots. Her 14-under 274 total was one shot better than the Republic of Korea’s winning team score. No wonder Ko is far and away the world’s best amateur.

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