No mir­a­cle come­back this time for Europe

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

For three straight days and five ex­haust­ing matches, Rory McIl­roy didn’t just fight against the 12 Amer­i­cans who were de­ter­mined to end years of Ryder Cup fu­til­ity. He also went toe-to-toe with the scream­ing, rowdy crowd that gave pre­vi­ously serene Hazel­tine the feel of a blood-thirsty foot­ball sta­dium.

Pump­ing his fist af­ter ev­ery long putt and de­fi­antly star­ing down heck­ler af­ter heck­ler, McIl­roy did ev­ery­thing he could to try to lead Europe to a record fourth straight vic­tory in the bi­en­nial show­down. It all caught up to him on the back nine on Sun­day. And when he faded in a fiery tus­sle with Pa­trick Reed, any chance Europe had of an­other im­prob­a­ble rally all but ended as well.

“I just ran out of steam on the back nine,” McIl­roy said af­ter Europe lost 17-11 to the United States. “Not phys­i­cally, but men­tally just a lit­tle. I was try­ing to sum­mon up en­ergy. I was try­ing to do ev­ery­thing I could . ... It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Europe en­tered the day with a three-point deficit against an Amer­i­can team that fi­nally ap­peared to have its act to­gether af­ter so much dys­func­tion and dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion over the last decade. That made the hill to climb just as daunt­ing as their “Mir­a­cle at Me­d­i­nah” in 2012, when they over­came a 10-6 deficit on Sun­day to stun the US.

Euro­pean cap­tain Dar­ren Clarke front-loaded his lineup, hop­ing McIl­roy, Hen­rik Sten­son, Thomas Pi­eters and Justin Rose could put some Euro­pean blue on the board early and turn up the heat on the des­per­ate Amer­i­cans.

There was hope early as McIl­roy was 5 un­der through eight holes. He and the equally emo­tional Reed threw deco­rum out the win­dow, ex­chang­ing wild cel­e­bra­tions ev­ery chance they had.

It reached a fever pitch on No. 8, when McIl­roy holed a 60-foot putt for fourth straight birdie, let out a gut­tural howl and held his hand to his ear while yelling to the gallery, “I can’t hear you!”

Reed fol­lowed with a 35-footer of his own to keep the match all square, and the Texan wagged his fin­ger at McIl­roy as the two walked off the green to­ward the ninth hole. McIl­roy man­aged just one birdie - and had three bo­geys - from that point on, and Reed out­lasted him for a 1-up vic­tory that set the tone for the rest of the day.

Europe won only four of the 12 matches, giv­ing the US its largest mar­gin of vic­tory since 1981. But McIl­roy and Co. hardly felt like they got steam­rolled. In a rol­lick­ing postgame press con­fer­ence filled with jokes and laugh­ter, they promised to re­turn em­bold­ened in 2018.

Af­ter all, the Euro­peans didn’t play poorly. They just didn’t play quite as well as the United States.

Ser­gio Gar­cia was 9 un­der on Sun­day in an ex­cep­tional per­for­mance. But 46-year-old Phil Mick­el­son matched him shot for shot, posting 10 birdies to halve the match.

Lee West­wood, one of Europe’s most ac­com­plished Ryder Cup play­ers, went 0-3 for the week­end, but was 2 up with three holes to play on Sun­day. Then Ryan Moore ea­gled 16, birdied 17 and sunk his par putt on 18 to surge to vic­tory.

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