Americans end Europeans rule

By Brian HewittSeptember 21, 2008, 4:00 pm
LOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Sunday at the Ryder Cup is a riot of colors; a cooker of pressure; a cauldron of noise; an orgy of national pride; a stampede of fans-gone-wild and a spicy hot mixed grill of emotion and tension for the protagonists.
 
Once you have witnessed one, even if you dont know a halve from a half, as long as you fancy the game, you will be addicted. The winner, at the end of this exhausting, long days, flag-waving journey into night, lays claim to the biggest and best bragging rights in all of golf.
 
That winner Sunday at Valhalla Golf Club was the United States of America by a decisive margin of 16-11. The runner-up was Europe.
 
U.S. Ryder Cup team
The U.S. team celebrates its first Ryder Cup win since 1999. (Getty Images)
There were no losers in the strictest sporting sense. But a baked dozen of Europes best players dont really want to hear about that right now.
 
Of course it hurts, said Euro captain Nick Faldo. When youve come here and youve made such an effort to come and play.sure, losingit always hurts.
 
American rookie Anthony Kim set the tone for the final day singles early on when he birdied three of the first four holes against Sergio Garcia in the first match out. It whipped a huge crowd into an even bigger frenzy and it resulted in a 5-and-4 victory.
 
Hours later the USAs Jim Furyk closed out Spains Miguel Angel Jimenez with a two-putt par on the 17th hole and the Ryder Cup was back on American soil to stay, for at least two more years, for the first time since 1999.
 
Now the critics of controversial European captain Nick Faldo, and they are legion on the other side of the Atlantic, will prey on his decisions.
 
The fatal one was his positioning of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington in the 10th, 11th and 12th spots Sunday. Poulter was Faldos best player all week, finishing with a 4-1-0 record. Westwood has been a Ryder Cup stalwart since 1997. Harrington is the reigning British Open and PGA champion and the No. 3 ranked player in the world.
 
Its a cardinal rule in Ryder Cup captaining to make sure the scores of your best players count in the singles. Poulter, Westwood and Harrington were all still on the course finishing matches (that would turn out to be meaningless) when Furyk closed out Jimenez.
 
The history on this is obvious and it is recent. In 1999, Euro captain Mark James saved his best player, Colin Montgomerie, for last and he, too, posted a result that didnt matter in a pulsating American victory at Brookline. Three years later in England, American captain Curtis Strange sent Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods out 11th and 12th respectively. Their matches didnt count either in a European team victory that concluded with Mickelson and Woods still on the course.
 
But captains dont get to hit any shots. And Faldo, a six-time major winner, might have expected more from big guns Garcia, Harrington and Westwood. Those three combined to go a shocking 0-7-5. Thats right, not one of them captured a single match in three days.
 
Oh, and by the way, the underdog won. The talk of this topic began moments after Europe thrashed the Americans 18 -9 two years ago in Dublin. And it continued right up until the first tee time Sunday.
 
As late Saturday evening, long after darkness had covered Valhalla, this subject came up again with the principals. I think, American captain Paul Azinger said to a small group, quietly anticipating the question, Europes probably still favored.
 
Moments later a weary Faldo scoffed when asked who he thought the underdog was now that only the 12 singles matches remained and his European squad trailed by two points.
 
Even, he said tightly.
 
Meanwhile, by the end of this biennial bash, there were even more American heroes and statistical anomalies everywhere you wanted to look.
 
Kim went 2-1-1 in his first Ryder Cup. So did Furyk. Hunter Mahan, who earlier this year wasnt so sure he even wanted to play in a Ryder Cup, won two matches, lost none and halved three.
 
I wish every golfer, every player on Tour could experience this, a reformed Mahan said, because it is just amazing.
 
Justin Leonard wound up with a winning record as did Kentuckian Kenny Perry, Boo Weekley, Kentuckian J.B. Holmes, Furyk and Chad Campbell, one of Azingers four captains picks.
 
I couldnt in my farthest dreams have imagined this thing to play out like this, Holmes said.
 
The 10 rookies in this Ryder Cup actually had a better overall record (15-9-10) than the 14 veterans (17-22-16). So much for experience.
 
The conclusion here: In golf, where nerves fray easily over time, perhaps the Ryder Cup is becoming a young mans game. Meanwhile a stunning total of six European players failed to win a match.
 
All 24 players had earned at least a half a point before Sunday. So the hounds, as they say at the finest fox hunts in Britain, had been blooded before the singles.
 
Or as north Floridas Boo Weekley, playing in his first Ryder Cup, put it Saturday night, I feel like a dawg somebody done stuck a needle in and juiced me up like a greyhound chasing one of them bunnies.
 
Precisely.
 
In the end, it was left for the 48-year-old Perry to have the final word. Perry had announced making the Ryder Cup this year was his only goal. He played just one round in the four major championships. And he took a lot of heat for skipping the U.S. and British Opens.
 
I figured this was going to define my career, Perry said. But you know what, it made my career. Its the greatest day of my life.
 
By then the golf was finally over Sunday at the Ryder Cup. The sun was setting in the Kentucky hollows at this place called Valhalla. But the buzz was still fresh.
 
The celebrating from another Ryder Cup Sunday would be going on until long into the next morning.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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