The United States won the Ryder Cup for just the second time this century, defeating Europe 17-11 in three thrilling days of golf at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. It was truly a team effort for Captain Davis Love III and his U.S. team, as every American recorded at least one point for the first time in over 40 years.
The crowds, scenery and weather were all spectacular for three straight days of extraordinary golf. The healthy final margin of victory for the U.S. belied the fact that Sunday’s singles play was chock full of tension for most of the afternoon.
Thursday afternoon’s opening ceremonies were held under cloudy skies and a bit on the somber side as the golf world mourned the passing of the legendary Arnold Palmer. Friday mornings’ matches began under a fading fog that soon gave way to brilliant sunshine that bathed the golf course for the next three days.
Minnesota looked like a golfer’s paradise as the matches were played under spectacularly blue skies without a trace of wind and temperatures that ranged from the mid-60’s in the morning to mid-70’s in the afternoon. With trees that were just beginning to blossom with autumn colors, the backdrop for the 41st Ryder Cup couldn’t have been any more picturesque.
Friday’s matches began at a fever pitch, with the crowd on the first tee creating a tumultuous roar that reverberated throughout the golf course. Team U.S.A. rode that festive spirit to a 4-0 start and it looked like an early knockout might be in store for Europe.
That wasn’t the case though, as Europe, led by Rory McIlroy, stormed back, winning three afternoon matches and closing the gap to just 5-3 after the first day of play.
Europe gained another full point during the Saturday morning matches, but the U.S. rallied to win the last three matches on Saturday afternoon to take a 9.5 to 6.5 lead into Sunday’s singles play.
Team Europe clearly needed to set an early tone on Sunday, so Captain Darren Clarke front-loaded his lineup, hoping a few early wins on Sunday could make things tight down the stretch. Europe sent McIlroy, who’d played the best golf of the week out first, and the U.S. countered with Patrick Reed, who seemed to embrace the competition as well as anyone on the U.S. side.
McIlroy and Reed simply put on a match for the ages. One could make an argument that the two staged perhaps one of the best hours of competitive golf ever played between the 5th and 8th holes. The two played the four-hole stretch in an absurd nine under par, punctuated by McIlroy rolling in a 50-foot birdie putt on 8, only to have Reed halve the hole by rolling in a 30-footer of his own. The huge roars of approval from the crowd set the tone for the rest of the day.
While the McIlroy/Reed match was astounding, it was in the conversation for “Best Ryder Cup Match Ever” for only about an hour, as Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia topped them with the most stunning match of the week and perhaps the best in Ryder Cup history.
Mickelson and Garcia halved their match, with both players unofficially shooting 63 (scores aren’t official in match play). Mickelson made 10 birdies (more than any foursomes group all week) and the two combined for 19 birdies, with both birdieing the 18th hole, Mickelson from 25 feet and Garcia from 12.
Team USA’s depth proved to be too much on Sunday, with the Americans piling up 7.5 points to Europe’s 4.5, providing the U.S. with a six-point final margin, giving the home team their first Ryder Cup victory since 2008. The teams will meet again in 2018 just outside of Paris, with the U.S. trying to win their first Cup away from home in 25 years.
As we said from the outset, the big winners at the Ryder Cup were the game of golf, the state of Minnesota and the spirit of competition. EMC was thrilled to be on hand for perfect weather, outstanding crowds and a United States victory. It was a week that surely would have received one of Arnold Palmer’s trademark thumbs up signs.