McDowell: 'I have never felt as nervous in my life'

As if they did not have enough Ryder Cup heroes already, Ireland came up with another amid amazing scenes at Celtic Manor today - a real giant in Graeme McDowell.

Following in the famous footsteps of Eamonn Darcy, Christy O'Connor, Philip Walton and Paul McGinley, the 31-year-old from Portrush won back the trophy for Europe when everything depended on him.



If McDowell thought he had faced the ultimate test of character when he won his first major at the US Open in June, he was made to think again.



"I have never felt as nervous in my life," he admitted.



Yet under such enormous pressure - this was the first match to go to the final game since 1991 - McDowell, back at the course where he won the Wales Open four months ago, beat Hunter Mahan.



And he did so thanks to a dramatic 20-foot birdie putt at the 16th and then a par on the short 17th.



Colin Montgomerie's side lost the singles 7-5, but having taken a three-point lead into the day - the first Monday in Ryder Cup history, of course, after all the rain - they triumphed by a 14 1/2-13 1/2 margin.



"This is crazy," added McDowell. "I was trying to do it for 11 team-mates, for all the fans, for the caddies, for Europe and for Monty - and we were all trying to win it for Seve (Ballesteros) too.



"The back nine at Pebble Beach felt like a back nine playing with my dad at Royal Portrush.



"It's so much pressure and this is a special feeling - there's nothing quite like it.



"Monty was amazing. For the last two years he has been up for this."



Yet the Scot immediately pushed the praise back to his team and backroom staff.

Montgomerie said: "Graeme was put there for a very good reason. He won the US Open, was full of confidence and it showed. His birdie on the 16th was unbelievable.

"We got off to a flyer, were up in eight and it was over, but they came back extremely well and all credit to them."



After early morning fog had threatened to add to the weather woes, Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker scored the first two points.



Johnson thrashed US PGA champion Martin Kaymer 6&4 and Stricker beat new world number two Lee Westwood 2&1.



But Ian Poulter demolished Matt Kuchar 5&4 and 21-year-old Rory McIlroy halved with Stewart Cink to make it 11-9.



Last year the Ryder Cup was described by McIlroy as "an exhibition", but after his first taste of it - one win, two halves with Cink and one defeat to him - what a change of mind.



"In two years' time I do not want to be watching this on television," McIlroy commented.



"This has been the best week of my life - and this is the best event in golf by far."

McIlroy's relief was palpable, however, after his third shot from the sand by the final green rolled back in and he then got up and down.

Luke Donald took Europe close with a last-green success over Jim Furyk after being three up with five to play - and after a man dressed only in a thong ran on to the green and danced - and Miguel Angel Jimenez followed with a 4&3 success over Bubba Watson.



Six games were still left on the course at that point, though, and when Jeff Overton beat Ross Fisher, and Tiger Woods - nine under par and seven under for his last seven holes - took care of Francesco Molinari 4&3 the tension was mounting.



That was even more the case when Phil Mickelson, point-less from his first three games, beat Peter Hanson 4&2.



Padraig Harrington could not find a way back against Zach Johnson, also losing on the 16th, and then 21-year-old Rickie Fowler produced an amazing fightback against Molinari's brother Edoardo.



Four down after 12 and three down with three to play, the US tour rookie picked by American captain Corey Pavin on a hunch birdied them all, holing from 20 feet at the 17th and 18 feet on the last.



It meant that instead of needing "only" a half, McDowell had to win to keep the United States without a victory away from home since 1993.



But he was equal to the task.



What a man, what a team, what a match and what a captain. The Full Monty indeed.



Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick