The USA Triumphs at Hazeltine
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
THE USA won the Ryder Cup for the first time in eight years with Ryan Moore holing the winning putt as Davis Love's team won 17-11 at Hazeltine. But how different it could have been, if only Darren Clarke, the captain, had shown more faith in his rookies.
America will point to their taskforce and the plethora of statistics that were fed to their captain, Davis Love III. They will also hail Patrick Reed, their latest hero, who played magnificently all week and finished it all off by beating Rory McIlroy, the European talisman, on the 18th green. He was immediately hailed as Captain America by teammate Jordan Spieth.
The best match of the day was the encounter between Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. Mickelson owed his captain a big performance after his disgraceful behaviour at Gleneagles two years ago. They came to the last all square and that's how it finished after both players birdied the 18th. Mickelson had 10 birdies in his round, Garcia nine.
Throughout the 12 singles matches, the quality of golf was breathtaking, perhaps the best we have ever seen at the Ryder Cup. And both teams contributed, although, without the shadow of a doubt, the better side won.
Arnold Palmer, who passed away a week ago, would have loved it, and the Americans will surely believe that The King was looking down on them, just as the late Seve Ballesteros was at Medinah four years ago.
"We lost Arnold Palmer on Sunday," Love said. "That was tragic, but this team was together this week and we did it for him. Everything that has happened has been very special to all 12 of these guys. I am so proud of each and every one of them. We have been kicked around for so long and kept losing and were determined to turn it around this time.
"We have seen some unbelievable golf from both teams. Everybody played their part and I can't stress enough how vital it was that we were all together."
Clarke was magnanimous in defeat. "The quality of golf was just sensational. Of course we are bitterly disappointed," he said. "With the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn't change a thing. This week the Americans holed more putts than we did. Our six rookies blended in so well and I am certain they will be ready to go again in Paris in two years.
"There is a huge amount of planning that goes into this but at the end of it all we have to say congratulations to Davis and the American team."
It was imperative that Europe got off to a flying start to silence the crowds and get the Americans thinking about Medinah, when they lost a four-point lead on the final day.
Instead, Patrick Reed carried on where he left off, holing a brilliant par putt on the very first hole to grab an unlikely half with Rory McIlroy, while Henrik Stenson, in the second match against Jordan Spieth hooked his opening drive horribly and joked with the crowd that it was indeed a s*** shot. Spieth holed his chip for a birdie. First blood to America. And they were quickly ahead in match three when Thomas Pieters made a nonsense of a simple pitch at the first hole against JB Holmes to go one down, and he also lost the second. It wasn't the beginning that Darren Clarke's team had been looking for. But Pieters bounced straight back with a birdie at the third and squared the match with yet another at the fourth.
McIlroy birdied the par-four fifth but lost the hole - Reed drove the green and holed out for an eagle. Justin Rose birdied the first and second and was one up, while Stenson was back to level with Spieth after a birdie at the second.
Jimmy Walker and Rafa Cabrera-Bello shared the opening two holes, but Sergio Garcia played a brilliant approach to the opening hole to edge ahead of Phil Mickelson. With six matches on the course, Europe were ahead in two, while the other four were level.
Next up were Lee Westwood and Ryan Moore. Westwood would have struggled to sleep on Saturday after the short putt he missed at the 18th in his fourball match and was delighted to win the first hole.
The top match between McIlroy and Reed was turning into a classic. Reed followed McIlroy in with a birdie at the sixth and then bowed to the crowd before turning to McIlroy and wagging his finger, as if to say: "Oh no you don't." In truth, it was pretty classless. Reed also birdied the seventh and this time McIlroy was up next and also made his putt before looking at Reed and lifting his finger to his mouth to hush the American.
The standard of golf from both teams was breathtaking, which was more than could be said for standard of behaviour from the crowd. Shouts of "Get in the bunker", "Get in the water", "Miss it", "Choker", were being routinely aimed at the Europeans.
Andy Sullivan, playing only for the second time this week, birdied the first to go one up on Brandt Snedeker and then added another at the third. Two up. Eight matches on the courses, America ahead in two, Europe leading in five and the top match between McIlroy and Reed all square. Early, early days though.
Unbelievably, McIlroy holed a 55-foot putt for a birdie at the eighth to go five under par - and he was followed in from 30 feet by Reed. McIlroy was the first to congratulate his opponent and the two embraced as they walked off the green. This was what we all wanted to see - great sport and great sportsmanship.
Chris Wood had the dubious honour of facing US Open champion Dustin Johnson and, inevitably, the Dustinator kicked off with a birdie at the first but then, wouldn't you know it, Wood made a birdie of his own. As Wood hit his approach to the second to three feet, you couldn't help but wonder why he was only playing his second match of the week. Up ahead, Mickelson was holing a 25-foot putt at the fourth for a birdie.
Willett and Koepka halved the first and now just four golfers were waiting to get their rounds under way. At this point, it was impossible to predict the outcome, even though Mickelson was the only American in front after Stenson birdied the eighth to draw level with Spieth.
And so it continued, with players trading birdies and, as the efforts of the previous two days began to take their toll, a few mistakes were also being made.
In the first match, Reed led McIlroy by one hole after 13, Stenson was one up on Spieth after 12, Pieters one up on Holmes after 11, Fowler and Rose all square, Cabrera-Bello two up on Walker, Mickelson and Garcia all square, Westwood and Moore all square, Snedeker two up on Sullivan after nine after winning four holes on the trot, Wood and Johnson and Willett and Kopeka all square, Kuchar two up on Kaymer and Zach Johnson and Matthew Fitzpatrick all square after just five holes.
Dustin Johnson then birdied the eighth to edge in front of Wood. The Americans had their noses in front but Clarke would take consolation from the fact that every match was close and there was still plenty of time to turn things around. After his blistering start, McIlroy was running on fumes. Could he find some inspiration and turn things around?
The galleries had been kept fairly quiet for much of the day, but all of a sudden Walker pulled a hole back and then Holmes almost holed his second at the 14th but Pieters holed another birdie putt and won the hole to go
As McIlroy stood over his approach to the 16th somebody from the crowd shouted out. Clearly put off, then hit a poor shot and looked on as Reed almost holed out from the greenside bunker to win the hole and go two up with two to play. McIlroy needed a special finish to get anything out of it, but Stenson was in control of the second game.
McIlroy won the 17th with a par while Stenson wrapped up his match at the 16th after Spieth found the water. Europe had won the first point of the day but by now it wasn't looking good for the visitors. Reed and McIlroy both birdied the 18th, giving the USA their first win. Moments later, Pieters birded the 16th to take out Holmes 3&2 and win his fourth point. What a performance for a rookie.
Next up was Cabrera-Bello, who also finished off his match on the 16th, beating Walker 3&2.
The match score was 10.5-9.5 to the USA, and Europe were in need of a miracle. It was difficult to see where the next point was coming from.
Would there be a late twist in the tail? Garcia birdied the 16th to pull back to all square with Mickelson - to that point, the Spaniard had seven birdies. Up ahead on the 18th green, Fowler and Rose were both on in two, with Fowler one up. Rose had played fabulous golf but couldn't buy a putt. Fowler duly two-putted for par and now Rose had to hole from about 15ft to square the match. He had to make it to give Europe any chance but, incredibly, he left it short. 11.5-9.5.
Garcia hit a terrific shot to the par-three 17th but, yet again, Mickelson holed a putt for his ninth birdie of the day. The Ryder Cup consistently brings out the best in Garcia and he duly followed Mickelson in. It was breathtaking golf.
Willett had a poor day and was thrashed by Koepka. The USA now only required two more points to take the trophy.
Then came the halved match between Mickelson and Garcia. 13-10.
Westwood was two up with three to play but Europe trailed in every other match. And it was typical of the Englishman's week that Moore came back at him with an eagle at the 16th and then putt his tee shot at the 17th to six feet and holed that too. All square going down the last. The only question to be answered now was which American would have the honour of holing the winning putt.
Snedeker secured another point for the home side when he birdied the 17th to beat Sullivan 3&1. 14-10.
Kaymer found some late form, with birdies at the 14th and 15th taking him back to all square with Kuchar but up ahead Westwood missed the last green in two while Moore hit another incredible approach. The Englishman's third shot finished 20 feet from the hole and he was still further away from the hole than Moore was in two. He simply had to hole it and failed to do so. So Moore had two putts to win the match and the Ryder Cup. He rolled the first effort up to the hole-side, and the celebrations could begin.
"I can't digest what just happened," Moore said. "I was just trying not to let my teammates down. This is an incredible experience. There is nothing like the Ryder Cup and I want to be part of it again. The crowds have been incredible."
Dustin Johnson beat Wood on the 18th and Kaymer also won his match, against Kuchar, on the final hole.
Patrick Reed v Rory McIlroy
A titanic struggle between the respective talismen on either side as they traded birdies and eagles over the front nine before their exertions caught up with them. One match too many for McIlroy, coming one week after winning the FedEx Cup. Reed won one up
Jordan Spieth v Henrik Stenson
Great golf from the start as these two traded blows with one another, with Spieth in superb form on the greens again. Stenson had chances to wrap this up early but couldn't take them, but was still scoring superbly and took it comfortably enough in the end, winning 3&2.
JB Holmes v Thomas Pieters
Pieters has been the revelation of the European team. We all knew he was a big hitter; now we know he also has a big temperament and a huge heart. Never looked like losing this match, and had the measure of Holmes from the start. Won 3&2
Rickie Fowler v Justin Rose
This looked like a banker for Europe. Fowler was a controversial choice and he at last began to justify his selection. Rose played well enough but his putting let him down. Rose played the better golf but lost on the final green.
Jimmy Walker v Rafa Cabrera Bello
Walker hadn't played well but he is one of the best putters in the game, and is the US PGA champion. But Cabrera-Bello is fearless and got his nose in front early on. Walker was always playing catch-up but birdied the 10th, 11th and 12th. The Spaniard went two up when he nearly had a hole in one at the 13th and won 3&2
Phil Mickelson v Sergio Garcia
Mickelson could barely find a fairway all week but finally got things straightened out and, as usual, holed unlikely putts from all over the place. Mickelson and Garcia threw birdies at each other like confetti and neither man deserved to lose. A halved match was the right result.
Ryan Moore v Lee Westwood
It would have been no surprise to see Westwood lose but he produced a gutsy performance in a match that, to be frank, wasn't of the highest quality until Moore caught fire. Two down with three to play, he eagled the 16th and birdied the 17th before winning the match and the trophy on the final green with a par
Brandt Snedeker v Andy Sullivan
Sullivan quickly went two up but Snedeker came storming back and was one up at the turn, with the little Englishman snapping at his heels. The American's putting was out of this world and Sullivan's was not, and that was the difference. Snedeker won 3&1
Dustin Johnson v Chris Wood
Wood looked like a lamb to the slaughter in this one but he birdied the first to let the US Open champion know he was in a match. But DJ is not one of the best in the world for no reason and he gradually took charge to win one up
Broooks Koepka v Danny Willett
The Masters champion against one of the brightest prospects on the PGA Tour and it was Koepka who cruised home thanks to five birdies and an eagle. Willett will want to forget his first Ryder Cup after losing 5&4
Matt Kuchar v Martin Kaymer
This looked like a gimme for Kuchar, with Kaymer in wretched form - the American was two up after six and in complete control. And then Kaymer remembered that he is meant to be one of the best players in the world, holed some birdie putts and took the match on the 18th
Zach Johnson v Matt Fitzpatrick
Is there a more ferocious competitor on the American team than the 2015 Open champion? Fitzpatrick is only 22 and is destined for big things. He will learn from this Johnson beat him 4&3.
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