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Greenstein: Wild scene tough on Stricker

Published: Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 10:10 a.m. CDT

MEDINAH, Ill. (MCT) — The wild scene surrounding Steve Stricker was one part “Caddyshack,” one part “Animal House.”

After Martin Kaymer sank the clinching putt and jumped into the arms of his European teammates and supporters, it sounded as if a soccer game had broken out on Medinah’s 18th green.

Fans flew Irish, Spanish and Italian flags. Men wearing OLLIE’S ARMY T-shirts (a nod to captain Jose Maria Olazabal) chanted “Ole, ole, ole, ole” in the grandstand. Justin Rose tended to a bloody nose, the result of an inadvertent whack during the celebration.

Fans to the left of the green shouted “We want Poulter!” The Ryder Cup stud who went 4-0 and sported those demonic eyes (call him “Krazee-Eyez Killa” from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) sprinted toward them, went down to his knees and pumped his fists furiously.

It was quite a contrast to the scene around Stricker, the humble Midwesterner. He lost the deciding match.

Figuring he needed a birdie on the 449-yard 18th to give the Americans a chance, he flew his approach to the upper portion of the green.

Asked about the pressure, Stricker replied: “Your whole body feels a little funny. It’s hard to hit good shots. I was so pumped up, I hit it 7-8 yards farther than I normally do with that 7-iron.”

That left him with a downhill 40-footer for birdie. Once regarded as the game’s best putter, Stricker badly misread the putt, saying: “We thought it was going big-time to the right and it went straight.”

Stricker made the comebacker for par, but Martin Kaymer’s 6-foot par saver set off the raucous celebration.

“That’s probably the most pressure that I’ve been under,” said Stricker, who played the final eight holes Sunday in 3 over par. “It was tough, very tough. I don’t think I’ll ever experience that kind of pressure again. It was fun, but I don’t want to do it again.”

The Edgerton, Wis., native and Illinois alum added: “Being from two hours up the road and two hours from school, it’s not a good feeling.”

Stricker was merely part of this Meltdown at Medinah. The Americans are supposed to dominate in singles — 12 players, 12 chauffeurs — but Webb Simpson shot even par on the player-friendly setup, Brandt Snedeker bogeyed Nos. 11, 12 and 13 to give his match away, Jim Furyk bogeyed 17 and 18 and Matt Kuchar’s match didn’t even reach the 17th hole.

Phil Mickelson lost 1 up after Rose birdied 17 and 18. Lefty thought he hit an ideal approach into 18, saying he played a “little 8-iron” for a 161-yard shot he believed was into the wind.

“I played for some hurt,” he said, “and there wasn’t any. I thought it would be perfect. I’m looking at the flags (now), and they’re blowing in. But my ball wasn’t touched.”

Cue the image of a winking Seve Ballesteros, Europe’s inspiration.

“Obviously Seve was there for that one point they needed,” American captain Davis Love III said after the 141/2-131/2 defeat.

Like Stricker, Love handled the loss with class and dignity.

“They played very well,” he said of the Euros, “and we never got that big chip-in or long putt.”

Asked if he’d change anything, Love replied: “We’d probably change a lot now that we know we didn’t win. I knew going in that (either) the players would win or the captain would get second-guessed. I hope they put it all on me because these guys played very well.”

A reporter prefaced a question to Stricker by saying, “It’s probably not a good time to ask this ...” and then sought his overall opinion on the Medinah Ryder Cup. Keep in mind that Stricker went 0-4.

“It’s unbelievable,” he replied, beaming. “The whole atmosphere is remarkable.”

Love lauded the Chicago fans, though some felt they spent more time snapping cellphone pictures than losing their lungs.

“We’re obviously bitterly disappointed,” he said at the 18th green. “This (comeback) was good for the Ryder Cup and good for golf — but not good for us.”

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