Since their embarrassing loss at Gleneagles in 2014, the United States Ryder Cup team has been saying that 2016 would be different. They formed a task force, brought back a player-friendly captain in Davis Love III and placed a renewed sense of ownership and responsibility in the hands of the players. Everyone speculated as to whether or not the new approach would lead to more on-course success heading into this year’s matches at Hazeltine, and it looks like it did. This time, behind a heroic performance from budding superstar Patrick Reed, the United States dismantled Europe, winning this year’s Ryder Cup 17 to 11.
While the final score was lopsided, the Americans didn’t breathe easy until late in the afternoon on Sunday. Heading into Sunday’s singles matches, the U.S. held a lead of 9 ½ - 6 ½ over the Europeans, a sizeable but hardly comforting lead considering the last time the Ryder Cup was on U.S. soil in 2012, captain Love’s team held a 10-6 lead heading into Sunday’s singles before Europe pulled off a shocking comeback to steal the Cup.
Your best vs my best
European captain Darren Clarke approached his final day deficit similar to 2012 captain Jose Maria Olazabel by front-loading his singles lineup with his best players, hoping that strong play from Europe’s best would cause a ripple effect down the rest of the roster. Unfortunately for Clarke, Love learned from his 2012 mistakes and countered with stars of his own early in the lineup, setting up some stellar pairings and spectacular matches.
All eyes on you
The most anticipated pairing of all was the first one out, Europe’s star Rory McIlroy vs “Captain America” Patrick Reed. Each player had put on spectacular performance after spectacular performance during the team competition, but few thought that the American Reed had much of a shot against the superstar McIlroy. On Sunday’s front 9, Reed and McIlroy treated golf fans to one of the most epic back-and-forths of all time. Each man poured in birdies and followed big putts with outlandish celebrations that sent the fans into a frenzy.
On the back 9, it looked like Rory ran out of gas and Reed seized control of the match. Reed birdied the 16th to move to 2-up with 2 holes to play. A bogey from Reed on 17 extended the match to the 18th hole where both star players hit it close. Rory was a few inches closer and could do nothing but watch as Reed rolled in his 10’ putt, notching the first American victory on the day, an outcome few expected.
Not to be outdone
While the McIlroy and Reed pairing stole much of the hoopla and attention, the match of the day was between two Ryder Cup veterans, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson. Each brought their A-games on Sunday, trading birdies and the lead all day. In the end, each birdied the final two holes to end their match all-square, Mickelson recording 10 birdies and Garcia countering with 9 of his own.
Fittingly, the match that sealed the deal for the Americans was between the last man added to the team, Ryan Moore, and a long-time thorn in team America’s side, European veteran Lee Westwood. The Englishman held a big 2-up lead with just 3 holes to play but couldn’t hold on to the lead as the rookie Moore surged down the stretch with an eagle on 16, a birdie on 17, and a par to win the 18th and close the door on the Europeans’ Ryder Cup hopes.
Taking defeat in stride
The Europeans took their defeat gracefully. The resounding theme from their side was that they simply got outplayed by the Americans this week. The future is bright, however, as the impressive play from Ryder Cup rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello signals a new beginning for the team as they look to take back the Cup in 2018 in Paris, France.
Studs and Duds
Check out the best and the worst of Hazeltine here. (Spoiler: we thought Patrick Reed was pretty good...)
Next Level #TourSauce
The weekend was packed with America and Europe’s best spraying #TourSauce all over Hazeltine, but one moment stood out above them all when Henrik Stenson flipped his club in the air after a poor shot during Friday’s best ball format. Now you can remember that moment by owning the latest in the NLU Tour Sauce collection, available in both a t-shirt and hoodie.