After a top-to-bottom overhaul of its approach to the Ryder Cup initiated in 2014, the United States registered a convincing 17-11 victory over Europe on Oct. 2 in the 41st Ryder Cup, its first victory in the biennial competition since 2008 at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
The triumph at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., was the Americans' largest since 1981, when they won by nine in Nicklaus' last appearance as a player. Overall, the USA won for just the third time in the last 11 meetings and improved to 26-13-2 in the series, which moves to Le Golf National in Paris in 2018.
Not only was the U.S. better organized after initiating a task force in the wake of its loss two years ago, but the Yanks showed more fight in them, too. The embodiment of that spirit was Texan Patrick Reed. Brilliant throughout the weekend, Reed toppled Europe’s best player – and the best in the world the last month – Rory McIlroy in Sunday’s opening match. The two firebrands traded birdies and demonstrative taunts until Reed, riding the wild exhortations of the home crowd and his unceasing adrenaline, outlasted the Ulsterman, 1 up.
“Anytime I can wear the red, white and blue, play for our country, and it happens to be match play, it kind of all just fits together,” said Reed, 26, who led the U.S. with 3 ½ points, while Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka won 3 apiece.
“Patrick is a wonderful player at any time, but he’s been our titan for the last two Ryder Cups,” said U.S. vice captain Jim Furyk, a past winner of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. “For him to go out against Rory, who is the best player in the world when he is playing well, and to beat him in a tight match … he’s got some guts, more than we’ve had in a long time.”
“I’m just proud of these guys. They had a lot of pressure on them the last 2 years,” said Davis Love III, who gained a measure of redemption after his 2012 team surrendered a four-point lead the final day. “We love this event. We’ve tried too hard to win it, and we got in our way for a while.”
Leading by three points going into Sunday, the U.S. outgunned a European team manned by six rookies 7 ½ to 4 ½ in singles, the first time it has won the final session since 2010. All 12 U.S. players won at least one match. The last time that happened was 1975 under captain Arnold Palmer, whose passing July 25 at age 87 inspired his countrymen.
Last man in for USA, Ryan Moore, delivered the winning point and one more disappointment to Lee Westwood. Moore, added to the team last Sunday after finishing second at the Tour Championship, finished eagle-birdie-par to win the last three holes for a 1-up decision. “To actually get the point for us, this is unbelievable,” said the reserved Moore, 33, who hadn’t played on a U.S. team since – get this – the 2004 Palmer Cup as an amateur. More inspiration from the King, perhaps?
Belgium’s Thomas Pieters submitted the most successful debut in Europe’s history, capping a 4-1 effort with a 3 and 2 win over J.B. Holmes. McIlroy was a gutsy 3-2. It wasn’t nearly enough against the determined Americans.
Phil Mickelson made 10 birdies to shoot 63 but only gained a halve against Sergio Garcia, who answered with his own 63. But Mickelson’s satisfaction was derived from USA’s dominance. That he also contributed 2 ½ points was simply icing.
“I have been around these guys long enough to know that from the Ryder Cup to the Presidents Cup what amazingly talented players we have,” Mickelson, 46, said after completing his 11th Ryder Cup. “To see them perform at this level is a remarkable thing to be a part of.”
“Phil and Davis stressed to us that we needed to create a new beginning, a new era for the Ryder Cup, and I think that’s what we started this week,” Spieth said. “We believe now we have a formula for success that we can take with us going forward, though right now I just want to enjoy this.”
The week also was highlighted by one of the most touching opening ceremonies in recent memory. Palmer was remembered with a video tribute, and Nicklaus, the Memorial Tournament founder and host, joined good friend Tony Jacklin in a welcome message. The two men have been linked in Ryder Cup lore since 1969 when Nicklaus conceded a 2-foot putt to Jacklin in the final singles match, a gesture of sportsmanship simply known as "The Concession" that is among the most celebrated in all of sports.