Monday, October 3

America Is Great Again in Ryder Cup

I WAS A YOUNGER MAN the last time the United States gripped the Ryder Cup trophy and sprayed champagne, way back in 2008 in the state of Kentucky. In fact, I was there at Valhalla early in that week. Kenny Perry was on that U.S. team. And Chad Campbell. And Ben Curtis. And Anthony Kim. (Remember him?) That's how long ago it was.

It was an ancient season during which Paul Azinger was the U.S. captain and there was giddiness about a player grouping system called "pods."

Now, thankfully, American fans won't have to hearken back to those Ryder Cup days of old. Instead, we can hearken back to yesterday -- USA's 17-11 romp at Hazeltine in the upper Midwest. From top to bottom, from young (Patrick Reed) to old (Phil Mickelson), the U.S. squad was brilliant when it counted, and in all formats: foursomes, fourballs and singles.

Putts rolled into the hole from everywhere, in every session. The boys closed out matches. They manhandled the pressure. They were a team in the best sense of the word. They had fun.

I cannot recall a better Ryder Cup performance by either side. But I admit my memory is fading and that I was dazzled by so many putts rolling into the cup on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The European dominance of the Ryder Cup is over, or at least interrupted until Paris in 2018.


Patrick Reed played and strutted as if powered by rocket fuel. "I knew today was going to be tough going against a guy like Rory," he said after winning his singles match 1 up, "especially with how he was playing earlier this week."

Shaky at times, captain's picks Rickie Fowler and Ryan Moore came through on Sunday. "This is unbelievable right now to actually get the point that clinched it for us," Moore said.

Rookie Brooks Koepka went 3-1-0. Brandt Snedeker was undefeated, going 3-0. Every U.S. player won at least one match.

Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia played what must have been the greatest singles match in the history of the Ryder Cup. After a total of 19 birdies, they halved their match, both shooting 63.

Why the U.S. turnaround?

The United States played at home and fielded a strong team, no doubt. And they were a team, or a "family," as the players, captain and vice captains constantly said. They have always wanted to win, but I don't ever recall seeing them more committed to the Ryder Cup and each other.

This time it apparently meant more to them, especially to Phil Mickelson, who assumed a lion's share of leadership after so many past Ryder Cup disappointments and after unleashing harsh criticism toward Captain Tom Watson and the PGA of America in the wake of another bitter loss in 2014. Lefty and his teammates were certainly tired of losing and cataloging their excuses every two years.

Whatever the reasons for the reversal, this time it was the Americans who played better, as European Captain Darren Clarke pointed out. Hopefully, Captain Clarke, who had six rookies and two subpar picks (Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer), will not be lambasted like Nick Faldo in 2008. Of course, I wouldn't bet on it. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you don't want to be the losing Ryder Cup captain.

Lastly, I am very pleased for Captain Davis Love III, who was at the helm at Medinah in 2012 when his U.S. team collapsed after building a 10-6 lead. I've always believed that Love was a very good captain whose 2012 team should have won the Cup.

"I'm just proud of these guys," Love said on Sunday. "They had a lot of pressure on them for the last two years."

So did Love, a victorious Ryder Cup captain at last.


Rudy said...

Phil Mickelson's criticism was for Captain Hal Sutton, not Tom Watson as you've written.

The Armchair Golfer said...

He criticized both. He criticized the Ryder Cup approach after the U.S. lost in 2014, including not-so-veiled criticism of Captain Watson.

Bob Brancato said...

Ian Poulter has been a catalyst for the Euros. His passion was missed.

nice said...
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Leon said...

Phil Mickelson was such a strong figure in the Ryder Cup with his voice that it can be easy to overlook his contributions on the course