By Brian O’Hare
THE golf was spectacular and so were the scenes of celebration as Europe continued its domination of the Ryder Cup.
The home side went into the final day singles matches at Gleneagles in Scotland with a commanding 10-6 overnight lead (the same score the Europeans overcame at Medinah two years ago) and early on it seemed the Americans might pull off something similar.
First Graeme McDowell was three down after five holes to Jordan Spieth in the opening match and then the previously unbeatable Justin Rose was four down after six to Hunter Mahan.
At one point the United States were ahead in six early matches but it was world No.1 Rory McIlroy who shifted momentum with an imperious display against a hapless Rickie Fowler, eventually beating the young American.
Then McIlroy’s fellow countryman McDowell fought back, winning five out of six holes from the tenth to complete an inspiring 2&1 victory.
The never-bashful American rookie Patrick Reed – who didn’t endear himself to the local crowds when he suggested they should keep quiet – reduced the deficit by beating Henrik Stenson on the 18th, but US Open champion Martin Kaymer chipped in for an eagle on the 16th to complete a comfortable win over Bubba Watson and make the score 13-7.
Victories for Phil Mickelson ( a golfer very unhappy with captain Tom Watson for being rested all day on Saturday) over Stephen Gallacher and Matt Kuchar over Thomas Bjorn kept the contest alive before Rose claimed an unlikely half against Mahan thanks to eight birdies from the seventh.
That put the home side one point away from outright victory – an eighth in the last 10 contests and the third in a row – and the honour fell to Ryder Cup rookie Jamie Donaldson, who was already four up with four to play when he hit his approach to the 15th to within inches of the hole to beat Keegan Bradley.
The European players and officials surrounding the green erupted in joy as a magnanimous Tom Watson applauded their efforts. In the end it was a comfortable victory for Europe by five points (16 ½ to 11 ½ ).
“I hit the wedge shot of my life to close the game out. I can’t really put words to it. It is unbelievable,” the 38 year old Welshman Donaldson said afterwards.
“I knew it was getting tight there at the end and everyone was building on my group. I just tried not to spend too much time looking at the scoreboard. I was able to do it well enough to close it out.
“The lads have got on so well all week. There has been a great craic in there, it is an incredible week. It is hard to describe how good it is – there is nothing else like it in golf. It has been amazing to be a part of it.”
The European players were full of praise for victorious captain Paul McGinley, who returned the compliment.
“It has been a real honour to captain these 12 players, our backroom team, it has been a huge team effort,” McGinley said.
“We had three or four big ideas which we kept feeding back to and they came off.
“I have a great sense of pride giving happiness to everyone.”
Dissent in American camp
Meanwhile, things weren’t so chummy in the American camp with senior player Phil Mickelson giving what was described as an “awkward” media conference pointing the finger at his captain.
Sixty five year old Watson was criticised by some for his decision to bench Mickelson and Bradley on the Saturday – Mickelson didn’t look comfortable with his role as a spectator in both the morning and afternoon team sessions for the first time in his long Ryder Cup career – and also for his style in not consulting players about his proposed selections.
“There were two things that allow us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger [US Winning Captain in 2008] did,” Mickelson said. “One was he got everybody invested in the process – who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod.
“And the other thing Paul did really well was he had a great game-plan; how we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do, if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well – we had a real game-plan. We use that same process in The Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”
Watson responded: “I had a different philosophy as far as being a captain of this team. You know, it takes 12 players to win. It’s not pods. It’s 12 players. And I based my decisions, I did talk to the players, but my vice-captains were instrumental.
“Listen, the Europeans kicked our butt. The bottom line is they were better players.”
Brian O’Hare is the editor of Australian Senior Golfer.
Visit the Australian Senior Golfer website here https://australianseniorgolfer.com.au/