Medinah, Illinois: Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal saw the last great Ryder Cup comeback victory first-hand, so the Spaniard knows that overcoming their 10-6 deficit against the US is possible.
Olazabal was on the 17th green at Brookline when the Americans won the 1999 Ryder Cup after entering the Sunday singles trailing by four points to register a record comeback for the biennial event.
“I believe that it’s not over,” said Olazabal on Saturday, continuing to draw inspiration from great friend and mentor Seve Ballesteros, who died last year at age 54 after a battle with cancer.
“That’s what I learned from Seve, and that’s what I’m going to try to pass to the players.
“It’s not over until it’s over.
“There is 12 matches to be played tomorrow (Sunday). Of course we have a tough task ahead, but it’s not over. As simple as that.”
The Spaniard said he hoped the passion Ballesteros held for the Ryder Cup and his memory would help inspire his team.
“We are going to wear Seve’s colours, navy blue and white, and actually with Seve’s silhouette on the shirts,” he said.
Olazabal said he well remembered Brookline, where he stood on the green with a long putt that would have prolonged the match when US players and their wives stormed the green after Justin Leonard sank a birdie bomb they wrongly believed had clinched victory.
“There is three moments that I remember very vividly,” said Olazabal.
“The start that the US team had, having reds straight away winning the first few matches, the 17th green with Justin, and all the players after the matches were over in the locker room and seeing more than half crying all together there, me included.”
The US led 5-3 after the opening day at Medinah, and were leading 10-4 before a pair of brilliant finishes in the last two fourball matches gave Europe wins and a fighting chance.
“Obviously today (Saturday) was not a great day for us, but it was a great finish I have to say,” the Europe captain said. “I think everyone realized what the Ryder Cup is all about when you saw those last matches, the level that was played and the intensity.
“That’s why the Ryder Cup is what it is.”
Luke Donald rose up in the penultimate match to stave off a late charge by Tiger Woods, and in the finale Ian Poulter posted five birdies in a row to cap a last-hole victory for Europe.
“I think the Ryder Cup should build a statue for him, you know?” Olazabal said about Poulter. “He thrives at this event.
“He loves to be on the spotlight. He loves to be in that kind of situation.”
“Making those clutch putts, that is the expression of Ryder Cup.”
Team Europe players did not shy away from the challenge that awaits them, but were buoyed by the rousing results at the end of Saturday’s play.
“Having both of those turn our way has really given the European side a lift that we needed,” said Donald. “It’s given us a heartbeat for tomorrow.”
Poulter certainly agreed.
“It’s given the whole team a massive boost, to be able to go into tomorrow knowing that you can win from this position,” he said.
“It’s been done in the past, it’s going to be done again, and we’ve definitely all got a chance tomorrow to go out there and try and get our hands on that trophy.”
Olazabal, as ever, said he would keep his message to the team simple.
“There is nothing to hide, guys,” the Spaniard said in previewing his pep talk. “Let’s go out there and play your socks off.”