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By: Ron Green Jr.
CHASKA, MINNESOTA | So this is what an American Ryder Cup victory looks like.
Ryan Moore, the last man picked at the last hour, looking dazed after winning the clinching point at Hazeltine National, ending an American losing streak that dated to 2008. One week earlier, Moore hadn’t been on the team and there he was pounding in the final nail.
“I have no words right now,” Moore said.
Patrick Reed, the man of the matches for the United States, bouncing from one place to another, seemingly floating on whatever it is that fuels him when the flag comes out, the smile on his face almost as wide as the Minnesota sky.
Phil Mickelson wrapping captain Davis Love III in a big hug alongside the 18th green, both of them understanding the weight that had been lifted by three days of exceptional golf played against a backdrop of forced change born from years of frustration.
Rory McIlroy walking through the winners’ crowd, shaking hands, offering congratulations, having never experienced a losing Ryder Cup.
Jordan Spieth pulling Rickie Fowler away from one celebration, telling him, “We’ve got to get this crowd going,” then leading the “USA, USA” cheers from the stuffed grandstand beside the 18th green, a celebratory beverage sloshing from his cup.
Bubba Watson crying not just because he’s quick to cry but because he was a meaningful part of a team he didn’t make. “He got me through the day,” said Brandt Snedeker, whose win against Andy Sullivan set up Moore’s clinching moment.
And there was champagne, sprayed from an elevated walkway onto the revelers below. Jimmy Walker took a turn as the walkway wobbled from the crowd jammed on the crossing. Mickelson took a turn. Spieth took a turn.
The win at Valhalla felt longer than eight years ago.
So why was this Ryder Cup different?
The simple reason is the American team was better in the ways that mattered most. In Reed, they had an answer to the lionhearted McIlroy, trading birdies and bows, taking every punch thrown his way then answering with his own uppercuts and finger waves. Reed was magnificent and when he won the first point in the Sunday singles, it was the reassurance the Americans needed with a three-point lead.
It’s no coincidence Reed is 6-1-2 in his brief Ryder Cup career. The first nine holes of his match against McIlroy Sunday were mesmerizing, one magnificent moment piled atop another. Starting at the fifth hole, McIlroy made four consecutive birdies and went 1 down in that stretch.
When it couldn’t get any better it did. McIlroy made a 60-footer for birdie at the par-3 eighth, Reed pulled McIlroy’s ball out of the hole, tossed it back to him then topped him with a 25-footer of his own.
“They’re looking at that board and once they see that (American) red for P. Reed going out getting that big point at the beginning, I think that settled down a lot of guys,” assistant captain Steve Stricker said. “We’ve been on the other side of those Ryder Cups.”
The Americans had more depth and they had a cause. Maybe they’ve always had a cause but not like the Europeans, not sketched out in ink rather than pencil. This, Love and Mickelson and others will tell you, is not the end but the beginning of a different kind of American Ryder Cup experience.
It worked. Every player won at least one match, the first time since 1975 that’s happened. Arnold Palmer was captain of that Ryder Cup team because that’s the kind of week this was.
There were plenty of voices in the American team room but one message.
“The underlying theme was everybody had your back,” Snedeker said. “You went out and did your best and if it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out but somebody else would pick you up.”
The Americans were tired of the Ryder Cup narrative but losing eight of the past 10 matches, it was up to them to change the story. Love hit all the right notes and Mickelson fueled the team room. The 46-year-old went 2-1-1 and saw his Ryder Cup vision brought to life.
Republished with permission by Global Golf Post.