Task com­pleted as Amer­i­cans win back the Ryder Cup

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Pa­trick Reed shook his fists with fury for ev­ery big putt he made. Phil Mick­el­son leaped higher than when he won his first Mas­ters. Ryan Moore de­liv­ered the fi­nal point in this Amer­i­can mas­ter­piece Sun­day at the Ryder Cup.

The 17-11 vic­tory over Europe was their big­gest rout in 35 years at the Ryder Cup.

Only this was more than just three days of exquisite golf at Hazel­tine. This vic­tory be­gan two years ago in Scot­land, when Phil Mick­el­son pub­licly crit­i­cized US cap­tain Tom Wat­son and a process that he felt put the Amer­i­cans in po­si­tion to fail far too of­ten.

“When put in the right environment, the US team brought out some amaz­ing golf,” Mick­el­son said. “And we’re bring­ing back the Ryder Cup be­cause of it.”

Sure enough, that 17-inch gold tro­phy was gleam­ing on a ta­ble, right next to a cou­ple of cham­pagne bot­tles on ice.

This wasn’t about being maybe the best team ever as­sem­bled.

The Amer­i­cans were a team, and that was all that mat­tered. For the first time since 1975, ev­ery US player won at least one match. And for the first time since 2008, the Ryder Cup is stay­ing in Amer­ica.

Four years af­ter Davis Love III saw his team blow a 10-6 lead at Me­d­i­nah, he watched them make more birdies and ea­gles than he could count as they filled the score­board with Amer­i­can red and took any sus­pense out of the out­come.

“There was a lot of pres­sure on these guys over the last cou­ple years,” Love said. “We haven’t had a good run lately, and I’m thrilled for them that they got the win . ... This team has been questioned and beat up for a long time, and I’m proud of the way they came to­gether.”

Europe, go­ing for its fourth straight vic­tory, never re­ally had a chance.

Reed out­du­eled and out­shouted Rory McIl­roy in a match so dy­namic that they halved three straight holes with birdies. McIl­roy holed a 60-foot putt up the slope on the par-3 eighth and cupped his hand to his ear to a loud an oc­ca­sion­ally ob­nox­ious crowd. Reed fol­lowed with a 35foot birdie putt, wag­ging his fin­ger at McIl­roy. They bumped fists and pat­ted each other on the back. McIl­roy’s put­ter went cold, and Reed holed a 7-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to se­cure the 1-up vic­tory.

Mick­el­son and Ser­gio Gar­cia com­bined for 19 birdies, eight of them over the last five holes. Mick­el­son made an 18-foot birdie on the fi­nal hole, crouched and then leaped in the air, cap­ping off a big week un­der more pres­sure than usual be­cause of his strong voice in all these changes.

One of the changes from the Ryder Cup Task Force that Europe mocked was to spread out the cap­tain’s picks un­til the very end. The last one went to Moore, who was added to the team only last Sun­day. A week later, he was cel­e­brat­ing a 1-up vic­tory over Lee West­wood that clinched the cup.

“You’re only as strong as your 12th man right there,” Brandt Snedeker said to him.

There wasn’t much Europe to do. Thomas Pi­eters had the best show­ing of any Euro­pean rookie by go­ing 4-1. That was a lone bright spot.

“They did ev­ery­thing I asked of them. They tried their heart out. They worked hard. They fought hard,” Euro­pean cap­tain Dar­ren Clarke said. “The Amer­i­can Ryder Cup team de­served to win. And we’re all gut­ted and dis­ap­pointed. And we will be back stronger to fight in two years’ time in Paris.”

Mick­el­son al­ready was look­ing ahead.

He had said the work of the task force - pri­mar­ily for play­ers and for­mer cap­tains to have more in­put in an event run by the PGA of Amer­ica - was not about this year but the next 10 years of the Ryder Cup.

Even so, it was sweet to see that tro­phy just a few feet away.

“We need to build on this,” Mick­el­son said. “Other­wise, it’s all for naught. We cre­ated a very solid foun­da­tion this year . ... Yes, it’s great that we had suc­cess this week, but it’s not about one year or one Ryder Cup. It’s about a mul­ti­tude, for decades to come.”

About that time, Love popped the cork off a bot­tle of cham­pagne.

“That’s my cue to shut up,” Mick­el­son said.

He spoke vol­umes in Scot­land, and on the golf course.

The Amer­i­cans stood atop a bridge to the left of the 18th green and sprayed cham­pagne on them­selves and the crowd, an enor­mous gath­er­ing that sent end­less cheers of “U-S-A” and “Red, white, blue” across Hazel­tine for three straight days.

Ev­ery US player con­trib­uted a point.

For Europe, West­wood was among four play­ers who ended the week with­out a point.

The Ryder Cup Task Force was dis­man­tled af­ter Love was named cap­tain for the sec­ond time, though Mick­el­son and Tiger Woods re­main on a com­mit­tee for the next Ryder Cup in 2018 in France. Europe has not lost con­sec­u­tive Ryder Cups since 1993.

Obama con­grat­u­lates US win­ning team

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama con­grat­u­lated the win­ning US team in a tweet, ref­er­enc­ing late golf great Arnold Palmer.

“What a win by the USA in Ryder Cup. Proud to see our guys bring the tro­phy back home. Arnie is smil­ing down,” Obama said.

Palmer died a week ago.

Mem­bers of the USA team pose for a pic­ture dur­ing the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the Ryder Cup golf tour­na­ment Photo: AP

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