He was the one European whose win Sunday was the most improbable. It was his win that ultimately won the whole danged Ryder Cup. I know all about Paul McGinley and the putt that meant the decisive half-point, but believe me ' it was Price beating Phil Mickelson that inspired the whole European team. He had it won about an hour before the numbers told the shocking story, and the lift to the Europeans ' and the jolt to the Americans ' were undeniable.
He just wouldnt let Mickelson beat him. He got 2-up, then 3-up, but no one really sweated it. Mickelson would come back, everyone assumed, but wasnt it nice that Price had put up such a game fight?
But by the time 13, then 14 rolled around, the incredible truth became apparent ' Mickelson was going to lose. The man who was 119th in the world was going to win. And not just eke out a victory ' Price was going to win decisively.
Phillip Price seemed to have an answer every time, said Mickelson, who didnt play all that badly in going down to defeat. Every time I knocked it close, he followed it up. He played great.
The Price-Mickelson match, unfortunately, didnt get much TV time. We didnt see much of the front nine when Price was erecting his 3-up lead. My only recollection of the action was when Mickelson gagged a three-footer somewhere on the front. Thats when I, and most everyone in the world, knew there was a good chance this point would not be in the American column. Forget Tiger ' it would all be over by the time his score was tallied. You knew something was amiss when you saw Mickelson's eyes after he missed that shorty. That something was Price.
It was the culmination of an entire life, a long series of ups and downs for the 35-year-old Welshman. He joined the European Tour at 23, but that was just out of desperation. He had to eat, and he had pretty well exhausted all avenues of doing so. Golf was his final alternative. He wasnt very good at it, but it was all he could do now. It was either do that, or go back home to Pontypridd, Wales, and serve out a lifetime in the steel mills.
That, incidentally, was what he did when he was 20. He sweated over hot trays containing steel bars. He would come home filthy with dirt. He tried a saner job, sticking addresses on envelopes, but that only paid him the equivalent of about $1.50 an hour. That, in short, was no option, he quickly discovered. He simply had to make a go of it in golf, a sport he had tinkered around with since childhood.
Price joined the European Tour at 23, and almost cashed out two years later. It was at the Dutch Open and he was struggling. Three holes remained and he was on verge of missing another cut. This was it ' he had reached the last option. It was back to the searing heat and filth of the steel mines, he had decided.
He sent his caddy up ahead to the clubhouse to line up transportation back to Wales. Price took just three clubs to finish the last three holes of the tournament. It really didnt matter, did it, that he might finish 120th or 130th or whatever? Finish the tournament and let me outta here.
So he finished, but he didnt leave. He thought about it those last 30 minutes as he played 16, 17 and finally 18. At the end, I decided to play some more golf because I wanted to keep my card and so have the choice of what to do the following year, Price told the European Tour website a couple of years ago. Then, a couple of weeks later, I finished fourth in the European Open.
That gave him his card the following year. And since then, he has lived the life of a true journeyman, showing flashes of brilliance but never reaching the upper levels reserved for golfs elite.
Then, 10 years later, he finally had his real moment in golf, defeating Mickelson in the Ryder Cup to put a stake in the heart of the Americans. It was oh-so-grand after his off year last year, a year in which a European writer had the temerity to ask, Do you think you should withdraw from the Ryder Cup?
The shy Welshman was hurt by the question. Making the team seemed so remote that day 10 years ago at the Dutch Open, and when it finally came via good play two years ago, Price was overwhelmed. Never, not in his wildest dreams, could he have conceived of such an honor.
Regardless of what he does in his career in the future, he has a memory that can never be taken away. Think he should withdraw from the Cup? How ridiculous! Phillip Price played the most meaningful role in his sides victory Sunday.
He experienced the steel mills, he experienced work at $1.50 an hour, and he experienced years of mediocre play. Then in one heroic weekend, it all came together. Price might have considered quitting golf, but he wouldnt consider quitting the team. And after all he has been though, come Sunday he was the hero.