NEWPORT, Wales (Reuters) - Rickie Fowler was viewed by some as a risky wildcard selection for the Ryder Cup but the 21-year-old rookie gave the United States a massive late boost on Monday.
The youngster came from four behind after 12 holes with a sizzling four-birdie finish to steal a half in his singles match with stunned Italian Edoardo Molinari.
Fowler’s unexpected charge put the U.S. one point behind and opened the door for a possible shared match - and a retained trophy for the visitors - before Europe sealed victory by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2 when Graeme McDowell beat Hunter Mahan in the final match.
“Rickie was amazing,” U.S. captain Pavin told reporters after the holders had surrendered the trophy at Celtic Manor.
“The putt on 18 was incredible. It gave us a lot of hope and from a 21-year-old, it was amazing.
“He just came through and he’s that kind of kid,” said Pavin, who chose Fowler as one of his four captain’s picks. “I think we’ll see him a lot more at Ryder Cup venues in the future.”
Fowler, a Cup debutant in his rookie season on the U.S. PGA Tour, capped a day to remember by sinking a curling 15-footer for birdie on the 18th.
“I picked out a spot, I told myself just hit a good putt, and what happens is what happens,” Fowler said.
“I hit a good one and it went right in the middle.”
The American tyro, with distinctive long black, mopped hair, fought back from three down to Molinari with three holes to play, an experience he described as “awesome.”
“It was a position where there was nothing to lose. I had to go for it. Edoardo played great all day. He hit a lot of great shots and forced me to make some putts at the end,” he said.
Fowler, who was unbeaten in four matches as an amateur at last year’s Walker Cup, said he had gained extra inspiration after watching Tiger Woods sink a monster birdie putt in the singles encounter ahead of him.
“The point that turned around my match, got me pumped up again, was when I saw Tiger make a putt on 13 from about 50 feet,” Fowler said.
“That kind of gave me a little extra life. I went on to win my hole with a par and that kept me moving for those last four where I made a little run.”
World number one Woods, who crushed Italy’s Edoardo’s brother Francesco 4&3 with a scintillating nine-under display, showered Fowler with praise.
“To see Rickie today turn that match around, birdieing the last four, was awfully incredible and very impressive,” the 14-times major winner said.
Editing by Mitch Phillips