McDowell knew the Twenty Ten course like the back of his hand. He’d won the Wales Open on the course that year and during a period when he lived in Cardiff he used the venue as his practice area.
As the match descended into the home stretch McDowell sunk a 15-foot birdie to go 2-up on the 16thhole. Thousands of fans who had been treated to a fourth day’s play swarmed around the par-3 17thlike bees to a hive.
“I was actually disappointed to be going out in the last pairing. I was the US Open champion and wanted to be in the middle of the pack and be one of the pivotal points, but obviously things transpired a little differently!”
“I was charged up. The fans were going, and my heart rate was like 170! I remember Monty came up to me and told me to just take a second and compose myself. That was a really instinctive piece of captaining,” said McDowell.
McDowell navigated his tee shot to the front right of the green, the ball seemingly blown away from the bunker by the gasps of the crowd.
Mahan, with his red cap, black shirt and white wrap-around sunglasses hit his six-iron short, the ball coming to rest on an up-slope of grass cut like a lattice work in front of the green.
McDowell, shielding his eyes from the sun, squinted to see just how short the ball had come up. As he began his short walk from the tee, the chants of “Europe” and “ole, ole, ole” which were being belted out by the home spectators echoed through the Welsh countryside.
Thousands of fans trudged through the mud trying to wrestle a vantage point to see the decisive shots. Inside the ropes it was just as chaotic, with nearly every member of both teams congregated alongside the green.
The chatter from the walkie-talkies became redundant as all eyes rested on Mahan, who had to play first. The shot was a simple one – a straightforward flick of no more than 10 yards that would run up to the hole. He would have played this exact shot thousands of times before, but this time the pressure appeared to crash down on the Texan.
His uncharacteristic duff failed to even make the green. It was heart-breaking to watch.
“I had a pitching wedge out to hit this little chip and when I saw him duff it, I pulled the putter out.”
McDowell, selected as the 12th man out of the European locker room, had to wait just a touch more to become the hero, with Mahan needing to hole his putt to force the Northern Irishman to play. The putt swung to the right of the hole and as he watched it trickle away, he took off his cap and conceded the game.
It was the first time since 1991 the Ryder Cup was decided by the final singles match and it set the crowd into a crazed frenzy, as both Europe’s players and punters celebrated on the 17thgreen.
“It was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had on a golf course,” McDowell said. “It was cool for about a minute and then got really intense. My caddie had blood on his head after being hit by a camera and then after about 90 seconds we didn’t even know how to get out of the pack!”
“But it was an amazing moment. My caddie managed to save my clubs; all the headcovers had gone and some fella had taken a liking to my bag and was just about to put it over his shoulder and walk off into the sunset.
“The buggy carrying all our other stuff like waterproofs… that had all gone, I think there must be souvenirs all over south Wales!”
“We were throwing shirts off the club-house balcony as we celebrated – it was like a football stadium and that’s what makes the Ryder Cup so unique.”