Ryder Cup Day 3: Americans Triumph At Long Last To Lay The Ghost Of Medinah To Rest

There was no Miracle in Minnesota for the Europeans.  It was more Humdrum at Hazeltine as the Americans won the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008.  It was a long awaited and well deserved victory, even if their fans let the side down at times with their boorish behaviour.  We will have to put it down to their desperation to win back the famous old trophy.  The victory was also redemption for American captain Davis Love III, who was the losing captain at Medinah in 2010 when Europe made the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history to win.

With Europe three points behind going into Sunday’s singles, captain Darren Clarke had no choice but to front load his team, putting out the big guns, Messrs. McIlroy, Stenson, Rose and Garcia, together with top performing rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera-Bello, to try and give Europe a strong start.  It seemed to be working as Europe started brightly and were soon colouring the board blue.  But there was always a feeling that the outcome of the mouthwatering opening tie between the two teams’ rabble-rousing star performers, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy, would decide the destiny of the trophy.

The front nine of the match produced one of the most staggering displays of golf ever seen, with both men storming to 5 under after only 8 holes.  At times it was more akin to a boxing match, as the two slugged it out, trading birdies and the odd eagle, blow for blow, and whipping up the already frenzied crowd into near meltdown.  The match reached its zenith on the 8th when McIlroy holed a monster 60ft putt and cheekily taunted the fans by cupping his ear in defiance.  Patrick Reed clearly took it as a challenge.  His response?  A 25ft birdie of his own!  Take that!  Reed nearly imploded with delight while the crowd went bananas.  McIlroy could only smile wryly at Reed’s one-upmanship.  The two men bumped fists like ragged boxers acknowledging a grudging respect for each other.

The extraordinary level of play was physically and emotionally draining and couldn’t possibly last.  McIlroy needed to win if Europe were going to stand any chance of a comeback, but on the back nine he started to wilt under the relentless onslaught of the pumped up American, who just couldn’t miss.  Although McIlroy courageously took it to the last hole, Reed was never going to yield.  With McIlroy’s defeat ended the European challenge.

No one had told Sergio Garcia though.  If Mcllroy’s battle with Reed was a Rumble in the Jungle, then Garcia’s fight with Phil Mickelson was the Thriller in Manila.  It was like a crazy golf putting contest as they exchanged birdie after birdie, hitting an incredible 19 birdies between them (10 for Phil, 9 for Sergio) to finish with 9 under par 63s.  And all for a half point each!  Sadly for Europe, the tide had already turned decisively in favour of the Americans, making the outcome of the match an anti-climax.  The American team were simply too strong for the Europeans, winning 7 1/2 of the 12 singles, to triumph emphatically by 17 points to 11.

The intensity of the American players and fans was the defining feature of the tournament.  The Americans were worthy winners.  They wanted it more and the course was set up for their superior short game.  Europe looked out of sorts throughout the contest and never really recovered from the opening morning 4-0 whitewash.  Some of their most experienced players, such as Westwood, Willet and Kaymer, didn’t show up, and there were probably too many rookies in the team, though conversely, their biggest positive was the outstanding performance of rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who competed like seasoned veterans, and too often showed up their more senior compatriots.  Some of Darren Clarke’s decisions were also questionable, particularly for the crucial Saturday afternoon fourballs, breaking up the winning Spanish combination and playing the clearly out of form Willett and Westwood, whose capitulation in the final two holes was possibly the pivotal moment that tilted the Ryder Cup in America’s direction.

Nevertheless, an American victory was a good thing for the Ryder Cup.  Sport needs competition to thrive, and the Ryder Cup has been too one sided in recent years.  The US needed a win, not only to maintain their interest and motivation in the competition, but perhaps the Europeans’ as well.  Europe looked a little jaded and played like a team bloated with success.  Losing the Ryder Cup will, hopefully, reignite their desire to win it back at the first attempt.  The fervour of the American gallery, though it spilled over into boorishness a little too frequently, also demonstrates a healthy passion and deep regard for the Ryder Cup, which can only be good for golf.  Bring on Paris in 2018!

Ryder Cup Day 1: Blazing Red Turns To Bonny Blue

Confession time.  The Ryder Cup has always been a tad problematic for yours truly here at Random Towers.  On account of the fact that my favourite golfer plays for the other team.  And he’s not just any player either.  He’s a major player, a big name, a Ryder Cup regular.  The sort of player you need to want to lose if you want your team to win.  I spend the whole year rooting for him at every golf tournament he plays and then for 3 days once every two years, I need him to lose.  Badly.  Ambiguous or what?

Obviously, we at Random Towers support Europe, but my favourite player is Phil Mickelson of the USA (not to mention the soft spot for Dustin Johnson and a confusing interest-hate spot for Jordan Spieth).  Also not mentioning that the heir apparent to big Phil is Rory McIlroy, poster boy for the European team.  So of course, inevitably, they had to be pitted against each other in Friday’s opening morning foursomes at Hazeltine.

Now, illustrious player he may be but Phil Mickelson hasn’t exactly covered himself in Ryder Cup glory.  Aside from an uninspiring playing record, there was the unedifying criticism of losing USA captain and everyone’s old favourite, Tom Watson, two years ago.  Earlier this week, he continued his unnecessary bad captaincy critique, this time dredging up old wounds from way back in 2004 when grumbling about how the then captain Hal Sutton had the temerity to pair him with Tiger Woods when there was very little love lost between them.  Come on, Phil.  I love you man, but move on already.  Phil was in need of some actual Ryder Cup points if he wanted to earn some redemptive brownie points with golf fans.  So who to support – Phil or Rory?

The dithering lasted until the first partisan cries of ‘OOOHSA’ ‘OOOHSA’.  Danny Willett’s vexatious brother may have been very wrong to write his incendiary article mocking the unruly American golfing gallery, but he did have a point.  They are notorious for their lack of sportsmanship during Ryder Cups.  The European fans, to give them their due, are fanatical but fair.  The Americans are just fanatical – about USA.  Great if you happen to support USA, but incredibly aggravating if you don’t.

They were in their element as red dominated the board, with the US team whitewashing Europe by winning all four of the morning games, with Phil and partner Ricky Fowler coming back from 2 down with 4 to play to win 1 up on the last against Rory and debutant Andy Sullivan.  Of course, I was happy (and relieved) for Phil, but miffed for Rory and Europe that they had thrown it away towards the end.  Thankfully, there was no conflict in the afternoon as Phil was rested for the fourballs.  The Europeans must have enjoyed a good lunch because they came storming back.  The rowdy home crowd was temporarily subdued as Europe won three out of the four matches, with only Brandt Snedeker’s fire hot putter saving the Americans from being whitewashed themselves.  It was poetic that Rory McIlroy should score the final point with a thrilling eagle on the 16th to bring Europe back into contention.  Rory had been getting wound up by the factional crowd all day so appeared determined to take pleasure in silencing them.  After he landed the winning putt, he bowed theatrically to the muted gallery before punching the air emphatically.  Point made, as well as gained.

Unfortunately for me, guess who’s up against whom in the opening match of tomorrow morning’s foursomes?  Yep, it’s  Phil v Rory Part II.  If they end up facing each other in the singles, I will cry.

Masters not done yet

Since my previous post, it would seem Jordan Spieth is fallible after all, or rather the blustery Augusta wind has rendered him human and enabled a fast finishing Rory Mcllroy to get within one shot of his lead.  Like I said, sport thrives on rivalries and they don’t come any bigger than golf’s two young guns going club to club in the final group in the penultimate round of the Masters.  Let’s hope the two Major winning stars are able to live up to their billing and thrill golf fans with a tense, gripping Masters finale to remember.