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McGinley outshone Watson
While both captains before the tournament were quick to play down how important their roles really were, it’s evident to see how positive an influence McGinley had on the Europeans, while Watson’s decisions and leadership have been questioned since that Friday morning at Gleneagles. True, asking Ian Poulter (a man woefully short of form) to guide rookie Stephen Gallacher around his first Ryder Cup match was a mistake, but every decision after that was inspired. Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson were immense together, as were Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. The whole team praised McGinley after the win, and were quick to share their success with their captain. On the other side, Watson’s team were barely a team at all. Poor decisions (where was Phil Mickleson on day two?) and the decision to not play rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed in the Friday afternoon foursome after their spanking performance in the morning fourball is something only Watson knows. Europe are often touted as creating a better team environment, with the Americans simply a pair of individuals, but Watson overlooked what was really a very pair showing from the Americans.
Foursomes – 7/8
At the Ryder cup, there are three types of matches. The singles, fourballs and foursomes. The singles matches are played on Sunday, and involve one-on-one matches between the two sides where everyone plays. However, the fourballs and foursomes only involve four pairs from either side at a time. The foursome matches involve a pair from each side sharing a ball, taking alternative shots. This is important as it relies on the pairing understanding each other and you effectively have to play for your partner. America came into this Ryder Cup as underdogs, and quite frankly they deserved to be. Europe on paper had the better side, so it was important for them to go into the Sunday singles on par with Europe or even just slightly behind. Each morning fourball session (each player has their own ball, and whoever does best on the hole wins the hole for their team) the Americans took 2 ½ points to the Europeans 1 ½. However in the afternoon sessions of both Friday and Saturday, Europe took a record equalling 7 points from 8. The one point they couldn’t capture came in the form of two half points they gave America. Both those half points that Europe gained involved some magic play from Mcllroy and Poulter, and Kaymer and Rose. America really should have taken two points from those games and taken that momentum into the next day. Unfortunately they couldn’t, and they ended each day badly despite dominating each morning of golf. You can make your own judgements on why Europe so comprehensively dominated the afternoons of both Friday and Saturday, but when Europe needed to play well as a team, they found the form that they needed.
The European players turned up when it counted
Ian Poulter isn’t the best golfer in the world; in fact he’s far from it if you look at the money lists and the rankings this year. But something about the Ryder Cup makes this boy come alive. Poulter heroically nailed five birdies on the bounce on Saturday afternoon at Medinah at the last Ryder Cup, swinging momentum to Europe which played a huge part in them overturning the 10-6 deficit to lift the trophy. Poults wasn’t on form at all, playing poorly in his fourball match on Friday morning, and playing just as badly on Saturday morning with Rory Mcllroy. 1 down at the 16th with 3 to play, Poulter and Mcllroy looked like they were done and dusted. But when the self-titled ‘postman’ delivers, he delivers in style. A chip over the bunker at the 16th nestled its way into the hole, and that trademark celebration we’ve seen time and time again came back. Mcllroy birdied the 18th and Europe took momentum into the afternoon which they dominated. Mcllroy was in trouble the day before with Garcia as well, only for a 40-foot putt to go straight in the hole, followed by one of the shots of the tournament from Garcia to find the 18th green from the rough; again they rescued half a point, ensuring America couldn’t take any sort of lead. Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose (more on him later) found themselves 2 down at the 7th, only to birdie the next ten holes between them, and beat Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson 3&2. The Americans were 9 under for the round, and found themselves beaten by the 17th, swinging momentum straight back to Europe and extinguishing any flame that the Americans sought to light.
Europe’s ‘other’ players step up
While Mcllroy and Poulter especially were seen as the talismans for Europe (one being number one in the world and the other a Ryder Cup specialist) the rest of the European team shone brightly on their own. Justin Rose played all five matches, won 4 and drew 2. How Rose and Kaymer finished A/S with Spieth and Reed after the American pair were way in front is beyond many, but Rose was the shining light for Europe, taking home a huge 4 points. After being 4 down in his singles match, Rose battled on and squared the match against Hunter Mahan. At the time America were leading in 8 of the 12 singles matches, and Rose’s comeback was the stuff Ryder cups are won on. He was unstoppable. Similarly, McDowell or ‘G-Mac’ as he’s so constantly referred to, was at his best as well. After marshalling the rookie Dubuisson around the course on Friday and Saturday and recording two thumping wins, he came back from 3 down in his singles to win 2&1 against Spieth who had been in excellent form all weekend. McDowell was asked to lead Europe out on Sunday, and it was important for him to set the tone. Along with Mcllroy’s annihilation of Rickie Fowler, and Rose’s comeback against Mahan, McDowell helped destroy any whispers of a reversal of Medinah two years ago. A small word for Victor Dubuisson as well. The Frenchman was my favourite player from this Ryder cup. A shy figure, he was touted as not being suited for team play; he rose like the force he could well be in the future. He played some breathtaking golf with McDowell in the pairs, and also earned himself half a point in the singles. He is really one to watch for the future.
America threw it away
16 ½ – 11 ½. It’s quite a big margin when you look at it really. And it suggests that Europe outplayed America and fully deserved their win. In reality, Europe simply stepped up when they needed to. An out-of-sorts Poulter and Mcllroy for the first day and a half were what America wanted. Winning the morning fourballs and going into the afternoon sessions with momentum – these situations are what the American team would have spoken about before play began. Winning in 8 of the singles matches on Sunday, should have given them hope to emulate Europe and overturn the 10-6 deficit they had. The fact that the Spieth/Reid combo looked the surest pairing from either side, should have given them confidence. Their two least experienced players thrived on the atmosphere and it should have spurred them on. But they didn’t. America constantly got themselves into powerful positions only to err for a single moment, and in stepped Europe. Ryder Cup golf is unlike anything else these players play, and the truth is Europe simply wanted it so much more.