Monday 27 March 2017

US empire strikes back with a vengeance to end Europe reign

Reed sets tone at top with epic victory over McIlroy before Moore seals deal

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy roars after sinking a monster putt on the eighth green, but the World No 3 couldn’t silence Patrick Reed who won their singles match on the 18th hole. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy roars after sinking a monster putt on the eighth green, but the World No 3 couldn’t silence Patrick Reed who won their singles match on the 18th hole. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

Patrick Reed surfed the waves of American pride, prejudice and passion to defeat Rory McIlroy and set the home team on their way to regaining the Ryder Cup by 17-11 after eight years of subservience to Europe.

Reed v McIlroy was technically worth only one point to the winner, but psychologically what a shot in the arm the 1-up win in the top singles gave the Americans - and Reed knew it.

At the other end of the scale rookie Ryan Moore claimed undying glory as 'the man who won the Ryder Cup' in its 41st staging, just a week after losing the Tour Championship to McIlroy in a play-off.

Joy for Rory on one Sunday, deep disappointment a week later. What a roller-coaster ride of emotions for the four-time Major champion in just seven days.

There is, however, no 'I' in team. Europe played as a team, and they lost as a team to a better side.

Going into yesterday's singles, they trailed by 9.5 to 6.5. At the end of a tumultuous day, they had lost the individual matches by 7.5 to 4.5.

Ryan Moore is congratulated by Lee Westwood after the American’s singles win secured the trophy for the home team. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Ryan Moore is congratulated by Lee Westwood after the American’s singles win secured the trophy for the home team. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

No argument there, and Reed was the man who set the ball rolling with the win over McIlroy.

The two men produced a match of huge emotional intensity and great excitement before Reed clinched the victory on the 18th hole.

The hordes of USA fans, most of them bedecked in myriad combinations of red, white and blue, rose to acclaim Reed as he holed his birdie putt at 18 to defeat Europe's talisman.

Such was the Texan's immersion in the team ethic and the vociferous support, it's no wonder the headline on the local Star-Tribune newspaper was 'Reed, White & Blue' on their Sunday morning edition.

European captain Darren Clarke to US captain Davis Love III. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
European captain Darren Clarke to US captain Davis Love III. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

All the Americans have interacted emotionally with the home followers at Hazeltine National, but none with such animation, such passion and uninhibited fervour as Reed. He loves them. They love him.

"It's the first time I've ever played in a home crowd," he said.

"To have these guys do what they did, to have the team come together and when we're down, having these crowds picking us up, cheering our names. . . it gets you going and keeps you going.

"If you hit a bad shot, they pick you up so you can get out of it.

"If you hit a good shot, it just builds more momentum over the putts."

McIlroy commented: "I tried my best. Tried my best to get it done and put a point on the board for Europe early on. But Patrick played so well, and I'd say maybe against anyone else, I might have been a couple up going into the turn but I was all-square and had a battle on my hands.

"It was tough at the end, it really was. I ran out of steam. It's been a long week. I didn't make any birdies on the back nine, which you can't do against a guy of that quality."

The Europeans did not let America have it all their own way, but the strength available to USA captain Davis Love III at the bottom half of the singles turned the tide in his team's favour.

European counterpart Darren Clarke, deeply disappointed at the outcome, could not begrudge Love his moment of glory.

A gentleman and a great golfer, Love was the losing captain when Europe staged the 'Miracle at Medinah' to come back from a 10-6 deficit going into the singles in 2012.

Lipped

"At the end of the day, the American guys played better that we did," conceded Clarke. "They holed the putts when they had the chance, and we lipped out. But that's happened the other way around for quite some time.

"The guys gave it all. You can't ask for anything more as a captain. We're obviously bitterly disappointed, but credit to Davis and his team for the performance of the day."

Love and Bubba Watson, who asked to be included as a vice-captain when he did not make the team, hugged and shed tears as the celebration erupted.

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

"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. I've never seen a team come together like a family like this."

Love's players certainly did him proud, albeit that Europe claimed some good scalps.

Open champion Henrik Stenson faced Jordan Spieth in the second singles. Spieth had hurt his hand doing a heavy 'high-five' with Reed on Saturday.

Before play began, there was a suggestion Spieth might not play, but he turned up and was 1-up after eight holes. However, Stenson dug deep from there and closed out the match 3&2.

The game ended on a slightly odd note when barefoot Spieth stepped into water alongside the 15th where his ball had landed off his approach shot.

A Rules official decreed that he had caused it to move in the water, and would have a one-shot penalty.

Stenson was two-up at the time and on the green, so Spieth conceded the hole and the match.

Martin Kaymer and rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera-Bello were the only other European winners.

Pieters took out JB Holmes 3&2 in the third singles, while Cabrera-Bello eclipsed Jimmy Walker by the same score.

Sergio Garcia v Phil Mickelson, like Reed v McIlroy, was an epic encounter.

Ten birdies by Mickelson and nine from Garcia illustrated the phenomenal quality of the golf, and it fittingly finished all-square.

"It was amazing. Obviously to shoot nine-under and end up tying the match, it's heartbreaking," said Garcia.

American points began to rack up as the afternoon wore on.

Rookie

Brandt Snedeker had a 3&1 win over European rookie Andy Sullivan. Masters champion Danny Willett succumbed 5&4 to US debutant Brooks Koepka.

Moore was overcome with emotion as his 1-up win over Lee Westwood clinched the winning point.

"I was just out there trying my hardest, trying not to let my team down. I have no words right now. It's incredible. To be where I was a week ago, to clinch the last place in the American team, it's just incredible," said Moore.

The format decrees that all the other matches have to be played to a finish.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, just 22 and making his debut, lost 4&3 to the 2015 British Open champion Zach Johnson.

Dustin Johnson tacked on another point to the overall tally with a 1-up victory over Chris Wood.

Kaymer and Matt Kuchar were the last team left out on the course while American fans and players celebrated, and the gritty German won 1-up.

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport