Classic Exchange Stories: Europe pull off a miracle at Medinah

Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter: Europe's hero at Medinah

In the next part of a new series looking back at sporting events that saw major drama on the Betfair Exchange, Dave Tindall revisits Europe's stunning comeback win in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah...

"The biggest carnage involved the tie. At one point it had been backed as high as 80 while, on that final green, it traded at just 1.12. Tiger the hero or villain, depending on which side your bread was buttered."

Setting the scene

The clue is in the name.

The 'Miracle at Medinah' was not just incredible in terms of golf or the Ryder Cup. It will go down in history as one of the most remarkable sporting turnarounds ever seen.

And, of course, dramatic swings of fortune lead to extreme highs and lows in the Betfair market and the 2012 Ryder Cup certainly did that.

Europe went into the event having won four of the previous five contests. They were a settled side, with just one rookie on the team to the USA's four.

But with home advantage and Davis Love III's side boasting an average world ranking of 12.17 to Europe's 17.30, the betting market favoured the Americans.

Europe were generally available to back at 2.809/5 pre-event, with the USA trading at 1.8910/11 following the announcement of their four wildcard picks - Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker - and hardening a little before the off.

The tie was 13.012/1.

What our previewers said:

Steve Rawlings: "Recent results point to the Europeans but home advantage is huge and Medinah is widely regarded as more likely to suit the Americans, who have been well backed over the last week or so. The market looks about right now to me but if forced into a pick I'd side with the Europeans. It's looks sure to be tight, and given that half of the last ten Ryder Cups have finished with a score of 14.5-13.5, I wouldn't put anyone off backing either or both sides to win by that margin again.

"In the Top European market, I simply have to back Ian Poulter again. He has been the top overall points scorer at the last two Ryder Cups. He's won both the WGC World Matchplay and the Volvo World Matchplay in recent years and although he needed a wildcard pick this time around, with a record that reads, eight wins from 11 ties, I can't let him go un-backed."

Paul Krishnamurty: "While three of the last four Ryder Cups have been one-sided, two involved notably poor US sides and longer-term analysis points to a tight, fluctuating contest. Last time the USA led after the first two days before losing. Prior to those one-sided matches between 2004 and 2008, the previous seven all saw both teams assume odds-on favouritism at some stage. The tie may represent the best strategy with regards the outright market. Currently a 13.00 chance, it may drift a little early on but unless the match is one-sided, is bound to trade shorter on the final day. We haven't seen a tied Ryder Cup since 1989 despite several close contests, five of which were decided by just a single point. Could this highly plausible outcome be overdue?

Day 1 Morning foursomes: USA 2 Europe 2

The idea that this will be a close contest is confirmed on the opening morning. Northern Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell edge out Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker in the top match but there are impressive wins for Phil Mickelson & Keegan Bradley (4&3) over Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia and Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson (3&2) against Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari. However, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose team up to take the scalp of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in the bottom match. All square.

Match score: USA 2 Europe 2

Day 1 Afternoon fourballs: USA 3 Europe 1

The Americans strike a decisive blow, winning the top three matches. It includes a 5&4 romp for Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson over Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson while the Mickelson/Bradley combo makes it two wins out of two by taking out McIlroy and McDowell 2&1. It could have been even worse for Europe but an inspired Nicolas Colsaerts in tandem with Lee Westwood does for Tiger and Stricker in the final match.

Match score: USA 5 Europe 3

Day 2 Morning foursomes: USA 3-1

There's a sensational atmosphere on the first tee as Bubba insists the crowd roar through his tee shot rather than fall silent. Poulter responds in kind and he and good pal Rose sink Watson and Simpson 1up. But that's the only good news. The inspired Mickelson & Bradley smash Westwood and Donald 7&6 and the Americans win the bottom two matches to pull into a significant four-point lead.

Match score: USA 8 Europe 4

Day 2 Afternoon fourballs

Europe have to pull something out of the bag today but the momentum is still with the hosts. The USA extend their lead to 10-4 as DJ & Matt Kuchar edge out Colsaerts & Lawrie before Watson & Simpson blast Rose & Molinari 5&4. Europe are on the ropes. But Garcia and Donald pip Woods & Stricker 1up and Poulter produces one of the most astonishing performances in any Ryder Cup match. He and Rory are 2 down with six to play but Poulter closes with five consecutive birdies to claim a thrilling win over Dufner & Zach Johnson. They still have a mountain to climb but the Europeans are buzzing as they arrive in the press tent for their interview. The Americans are just 1.162/13 on the exchange to turn their 10-6 lead into a win (they need just four points from the 12 on offer in the singles). But anyone noting the European mood will just be a little reluctant to take that sort of price.

Match score: USA 10 Europe 6

Day 3 Singles: USA 3.5 Europe 8.5


A look at the final singles results, with Europe winning the top five matches, suggests Jose Maria Olazabal's side simply rode the momentum from the previous night and the betting patterns were a simple case of the USA drifting from their 1.162/13 and Europe closing in all the time. The reality was very different.

Even after Donald beats Bubba in the top game, there is a brief period when Europe are leading in just one other match. Their position looks hopeless and the USA shorten up to just 1.031/33 on the exchange. The comeback is a slow burner. It takes a while for the 'Miracle of Medinah' to unfold.

In among the drama there is Rory turning up late and only just making his tee-time with Bradley. It matters not a jot as McIlroy beats him 2&1.

Of course, the iconic moment in a sporting sense is Martin Kaymer holing a six-foot putt to beat Stricker 1up. That means Europe, as holders, have retained the Ryder Cup. To a large extent it is mission accomplished.

But, in terms of the betting market, the fun and games has yet to peak.

Tiger wins the 17th hole against Molinari to go 1up but the two then watch from the fairway as Kaymer's putt up ahead at the 18th green sparks wild European celebrations. The Americans are stunned but this final hole still has massive implications on the exchange.

Molinari knocks his birdie try some three feet past the hole, while Tiger has a putt from a similar distance to win the match with par. But the heart has gone from Tiger, he rushes his routine and misses the putt to sink a dagger into the heart of tie backers as that would have ensured a 14-14 scoreline. There is still a little hope though if Molinari misses his but, to wide astonishment, Woods concedes the putt, leaving Europe as the 14.5-13.5 winners.

Huge fluctuations in tie market

The biggest carnage involved the tie. At one point it had been backed as high as 8079/1 while, on that final green, it traded at just 1.121/8. Tiger the hero or villain, depending on which side your bread is buttered.

Looking back at other key points, the USA could have been backed at 3.412/5 when Kaymer stood over his putt while Europe were 5.004/1 when Woods was standing over his.

Despite the USA touching just 1.031/33, Europe never reached crazy prices. They were 23.022/1 after day two and traded at a high of only 27.026/1.

"The Cup had already been retained by Europe, so it was already over," said Woods later, words that were hollow to those who thought they'd struck gold by backing the tie.

In terms of our previewers, Paul had put readers in great shape to trade out a profit on the tie while mystic Steve had a double celebration after predicting the correct scoreline and tipping Poulter to finish as top scorer.

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