USA regain Ryder Cup title after epic final day
Patrick Reed sets tone for team with victory over Rory McIlroy in thrilling top match
USA’s Jimmy Walker and USA’s Patrick Reed celebrate after the USA won the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
No miracle this time, not so much as a prayer if the truth be told. Under beautifully blue skies with none of the dark undercurrents that had soured the first couple of days, the United States found their deliverance of their own and recaptured the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008 with a comprehensive 17-11 victory. No historic four-in-a-row for Europe, the old order restored.
If Europe were to have had a prayer, any hope at all, the big guns - front-loaded at the top of the order - needed to deliver. They didn’t. Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose were taken down. Sergio Garcia only halved. And, behind them, the middle and bottom order creaked and eventually sunk under the superiority of the Americans who were roared from tee-to-green and green-to-next-tee by a crowd of 70,000, the vast majority home supporters who served as a 13th man.
No matter where Darren Clarke searched for optimism, the news was grim. The giant LED scoreboards were a sea of red, his wireless connections to his five vice-captains around the course providing only glimmers of hope that were often quickly dispelled. The writing was on the wall for a long time, only a matter of who and when.
As it turned out, Ryan Moore - the last man into the USA team as the final wild card pick - ensured the USA regained the trophy after an eight year absence. Moore, two down after 15 holes to Lee Westwood, won the last three holes to claim a one hole win and, more importantly, the overall result. It gave the USA only their third win since 1995 and their biggest success since Walton Heath in 1981.
An abiding image? That would be of Bubba Watson, who didn’t hit a shot in anger, hugging Davis Love III, the man who had decided he didn’t want him as a player on his team. Bubba was a bubbling wreck, tears streaming down his face. Love too. Who said the Ryder Cup didn’t matter to the Americans, who’d established a task force after losing so poorly at Gleneagles. Redemption, in a big way for sure.
Having carried a three points advantage into the final session of 12 singles, the USA had their foot on European throats. They kept it there, Patrick Reed - in the top singles - displaying passion but also wonderful shot-making in out-duelling McIlroy. It was a performance that generated loud roars that reverberated around the course and fed its way back to those following. If Europe’s intent was to silence the crowds, it didn’t work.
The USA were the superior force. Reed, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Mickelson (with a half) and Snedeker all piled up the numbers in their favour before Moore had the distinction of dragging them to 15, over the magic 14 ½ mark. Soon after, the Johnsons - Zach and Dustin - also claimed wins to make the victory ever more emphatic.
Europe, in contrast, had skinny pickings. Two of the team’s debutants - Thomas Pieters, the first European rookie to win four points in a Ryder Cup , and Rafa Cabrera Bella - stood tall with wins along with Henrik Stenson and, when the match was done and dusted, Martin Kaymer. In taking the singles session by 7 ½ to 4 ½, the USA ruled supreme.
“It’s disappointing for us as a team and, you know, for me personally, taking on the role to go out and put a blue point on the board. I didn’t do my job,” admitted McIlroy. “I’m obviously disappointed but we put up a great fight all week. America came in as favourites and justifiably so, especially on home turf. We came here in front of a tough crowd and we gave it our all.”
McIlroy lost out to Reed in a ding-dong affair at the top order that effectively created the pathway for the United States to find a way back to the promised land. Eight years ago last savouring success, at Valhalla in 2008, Love - who made some tough calls, among them leaving Watson out of his team - was justified for a hard-line yet more inclusive approach that gave the players’ a greater contribution beyond the job of hitting the shots.
“I think it’s good for golf, it keeps the Ryder Cup interesting going into France in a couple of years time. Not that we need any more incentive, but we’re going to want to get it back,” added McIlroy.
For sure, part of the inquest into Europe’s defeat will focus on the ‘wild cards’ - not of Pieters but of Westwood especially, as he left 0 for 3 from his own matches - and the non-selection of Russell Knox and, also, that a player like the in-form Paul Casey remained outside the qualifying criteria.
Asked if he would have changed anything, Clarke observed: “I wouldn’t. We were very comfortable with all the decisions we made. Hindsight is a wonderful thin, but even with that, we wouldn’t have made any different decisions.”
When it was all over, Love, the US captain, approach McIlroy and told him it was the best month of golf he’d ever seen, the FedEx Cup playoffs running into the Ryder Cup. For Love, who was on the wrong end of the result at Medinah in 2012 where Europe staged the unlikeliest of comebacks, there was a sense of fulfilment.
“I’m just proud of these guys. They had a lot of pressure on them for the last two years (since Gleneagles). And every time we picked a guy, there was more and more pressure on the team and more and more questions, and I’m just proud the way every one of them played. It was a great team effort,” said Love.