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Sunday, September 26, 1999 Published at 22:01 GMT 23:01 UK


Leonard is toast of America

Justin Leonard responds to the crowd as his bandwagon starts to roll

Justin Leonard (US) v Jose Maria Olazabal (Eur) - Match halved to give the USA a 14½-12½ lead and secure overall Ryder Cup victory.


The BBC's Tony Adamson describes the closing stages of the Leonard and Olazabal match
It was apt that Justin Leonard should claim the decisive half-point that gave the US victory in the 1999 Ryder Cup.

Because the comeback that the Texan launched in the closing holes against Jose Maria Olazabal encapsulated precisely the American final-day effort as a whole.

Leonard had been four down to Olazabal after 11 holes and was seemingly heading for defeat.

But, just as his team would not accept losing nor would Leonard - and he sank a string of amazing putts to win four holes in a row to take the match down the last two holes.

When he sank a putt from about 40ft at the 17th he knew he could not lose.

And so did his team-mates. They stormed onto the green, causing a long interruption in play before Olazabal could attempt the long putt he needed to halve the hole.

The actions of the Americans caused great bitterness among the European contingent.

But Leonard could not be blamed for the behaviour of his compatriots, as he tried to clear the green and allow Olazabal to play on.

When the turmoil subsided, what was now a dead-rubber went up the 18th - and, all credit to Olazabal, he went on to hit a birdie to win the hole and claim a share of the spoils.

Leonard may be the toast of the whole of the US golfing community - but the result means that, remarkably, he has yet to win a Ryder Cup match.

See-saw start

A sloppy five from Leonard at the very first hole handed the early advantage to the Spaniard.

But a brilliant 25-foot putt for a two at the short second hole from Leonard immediately restored parity - and was a premonition of the heroics to come.

When a Leonard putt horeshoed right around the hole at the fourth, Olazabal claimed his second victory to move back into the lead.

And a birdie at the sixth gave the Masters champion some breathing space at two-up.

The out-of-form Olazabal had been seen by many followers of the game as one of the major weak links in the European team.

But he produced some storming golf to charge into a four-hole lead at the 10th and looked to be cruising for victory.

The comeback begins

However, Leonard had other ideas and stormed back into contention in stunning style.

Two birdies in a row at the 12th and 13th halved the Spaniard's lead.

A third awesome blow was then dealt by the American, who holed for a four at the par-five 14th - and when his birdie could not be matched by Olazabal, the lead was down to just one hole.

Olazabal could then only card par at the 15th and the Texan made it four holes in a row with another brilliant birdie.

He raised his arms in triumph in response to enormous bellows from the crowd, as the match was now, remarkably, all-square.

Then came the drama at the 17th - and the Ryder Cup was back in American hands.



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