The Americans win the Ryder Cup

Published:

USA 16 1/2 Europe 11 1/2

Results from Sunday’s singles

Match 1: Anthony Kim beat Sergio Garcia 5&4
Anthony Kim did exactly what Faldo hoped Garcia would do and won big. The American played extraordinary golf and was 7-under-par when they shook hands on the 14th green.

Match 2: Hunter Mahan halved with Paul Casey
Mahan sank a bomb from 45 feet on the 17th to go dormie one 1, but when the American drove into the water at the last, Casey was always going to win the hole and halve the match.

Match 3: Justin Leonard lost to Robert Karlsson 5&3
The Swede continued his amazing play from Saturday holing putts from all over the place, and Leonard contributed to his own downfall with some sloppy play.

Match 4: Phil Mickelson lost to Justin Rose 3&2
A great scalp for Rose, who beat Mickelson in the Matchplay a year ago. The Englishman went ahead when Mickelson made a bogey at the tough 6th and never looked like losing after that.

Match 5: Kenny Perry beat Henrik Stenson 3&2
In front of his home crowd Perry thrived and was 8-under par when they shook hands on the 16th green. The Swede’s head went when he hit the ball into the water twice at the 7th.

Match 6: Boo Weekley beat Oliver Wilson 4&2
Amazingly, given the score, the Englishman actually played really solidly and was 4-under-par at the end; but Boo played immaculate golf and was 8-under-par after 16 holes.

Match 7: J.B.Holmes beat Soren Hansen 2&1
All square with three holes to play, Holmes then made two birdies in a row to close out the match. The Dane hit a great chip on the 17th, which hit the hole and almost went in, but…

Match 8: Jim Furyk beat Miguel Angel Jimenez 2&1
Furyk was the man who won the Cup when Jimenez missed a 25-footer and conceded him his 2 ½ footer for the match. The turning point came at the 10th, when the Spaniard made an untidy bogey.

Match 9: Stewart Cink lost to Graeme McDowell 2&1
The Irishman was one of the stars of the week and despite the fact that Cink threw three birdies in a row at him from the 2nd, he gained control on the back nine.

Match 10: Steve Stricker lost to Ian Poulter 3&2
The Englishman carried on where he left off yesterday and his six birdies were too much for the American. Although he won 4 out of his 5 matches, it wasn’t quite enough.

Match 11: Ben Curtis beat Lee Westwood 2&1
Westwood was 2-up after 6 holes but it was all-square after 15 and then with the match all over, the momentum swung to Curtis who ended up finishing it with a birdie on the 17th.

Match 12 Chad Campbell beat Padraig Harrington 2&1
Harrington wasn’t firing on all cylinders but you still expected him to come out on top at 1-down with 5 to play. And then news reached him the match was lost, and all his energy disappeared.

When J.B. Holmes holed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 17th at 5.12 p.m. in his match against Soren Hansen (with Furyk already dormie 2 up on Miguel Angel Jimenez and so assured of a half) the USA had 14 points and couldn’t lose the match, but they could still lose the Cup. But then, at 5.19 p.m. Miguel Angel Jimenez failed to hole a 25-footer for the hole on the 17th, and America won the Ryder Cup back for the first time this century, and for the first time since 1999.

“My guys stayed on message all week,” said an ecstatic Captain Azinger afterwards. “We came into this with a plan and we never lost sight of that. I can’t tell you what that plan was at the moment, because I want to write a book.”

“Paul has done an amazing job at getting the American public interested in this event,” said his counterpart, Faldo, afterwards. “They played unbelievable golf and they were the better side today. We may have come second in the match, but in pride and spirit we certainly didn’t.”

Faldo will get roasted for this defeat, not least by the British tabloids, and not least because he made contentious decisions from way before the tournament. There will be some who say he was a fool to pack the bottom of the singles order with power, so wasting Harrington, Westwood and Poulter, all of whom were still playing when the match had been decided. But, all the team said the order of the singles was a team decision and as he himself said: “We were only one match in the middle away from making it go down to the last few games, and then anything could have happened.”

The crucial match on Sunday turned out to be the J.B. Holmes v Soren Hansen one, which was all-square with three holes to play, and Holmes had looked extremely nervous losing the 15th. What’s more, on the 16th, the Kentucky man was supremely lucky, because his drive went left, clattered into the trees and yet came out again. From there, he made a birdie and was always in the driving seat. In the end, the United States won the singles 7 ½ 4 ½, but the last two matches swung the Americans way after the result was known.

Inevitably, this will be a tough pill to swallow for the Europeans, who fancied their chances, and could easily have taken the honours on either of the first two days, when 9 of the 16 matches went down the 18th. But, eventually they will probably realise that as far as these matches were concerned, it was no bad thing the Americans won. This victory and Captain Azinger’s ‘spreading the word’ of this event, has apart from anything else secured its future. There was a very real chance that if the Americans had suffered another heavy defeat in Kentucky, televisions would have been switched off in future matches and no one would have cared much about it.

Apart from the Gala Dinner (where people paid a lot of money to see the players and their wives make a very brief appearance) and the opening ceremony (where Faldo’s introduction of his players and the introduction of various ‘suits’ from the PGA was far from brief) the organisation of this event can’t be faulted.

The fans were fantastic, huge in number and loud and partisan in voice, but very fair with it. The atmosphere around the 1st tee from about two hours before the first tee-off time on Sunday was quite extraordinary.

The European fans (smaller in number but louder and with a greater variety of songs) arrived at the course at 9.00 a.m. in the morning to stake out their places. “Where’s your Tiger gone… Far Far Away” was rejoined with “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down…” It was hilarious stuff and the only problem was the stands surrounding the 1st tee were too small. Celtic Manor organisers take note.

There were rumours that some of the European’s telephones had rung during the night and Lee Westwood, in the heat of battle, had a problem with how Boo Weekley was revving up the crowd in his match against him on the first day. But, generally, the players showed immense respect and friendship to each other. Cliché it may be, but it was a terrific advert for the game.

Tiger sent texts to Captain Azinger all week (10 on Saturday alone) and yet the Ryder Cup proved it is even bigger than the greatest player who has ever played the game, because once it all got underway, he wasn’t really missed.

Asked about his comments before the match (saying that some of the players were treated like ‘slaves’) American player Hunter Mahan said: “I spoke like an idiot when I said that. It’s an unbelievable feeling, an extraordinary week.”

There were lots of heroes amongst the American team, not least Kenny Perry, who tried all year to make the team in his home state and probably won’t play in another of these. “I thought this might define my career,” he said in tears afterwards. “But, you know what, it made my career. I made seven birdies today. I birdied four holes in a row right out of the gate, 2, 3, 4, and 5. My putter was magical. My shoulder started hurting on the 9th hole and I started eating Advil like candy. I just had to get rid of the pain. But, I had a great calm about me today. This was the greatest day of my life.”

But, Boo Weekley was perhaps the pick of the bunch in terms of American heroes. He brought a down-to-earth humour to the event, which added a huge dimension, and reminded all of the millionaire golfers on show not to take themselves too seriously. Asked about adrenalin he said he felt like “a bunny being chased by a greyhound”. After he hit his first tee shot on Sunday, he put his driver between his legs and pretended to ride it down the fairway like Happy Gilmore.

Ian Poulter, Faldo’s controversial pick, came out with a hugely enhanced reputation. He was the top points scorer for Europe, winning four out of his five matches, and yet was disconsolate afterwards.

“I should have won that first match as well,” he said, “and been five out of five. Then, things might have been different.”

 

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