(A note from the editor: Dunton diligently got me this piece at the conclusion of the Ryder Cup. Due to a glitch in the matrix, the piece was filed into the wrong dashboard and I as the editor missed it. That being said, it may be two days late, but Dunton’s work deserves to be read and I wouldn’t let his work go to waste, so enjoy his finals thoughts on the Ryder Cup! USA USA USA!)
The US won the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008 and only the third win since 1999. This weekend was a great display of team golf and a great indictment for what the US has been doing since 2014. The US, and more importantly the Ryder Cup Task Force that was created after the last demoralizing loss in 2014, took it upon themselves to create a culture that took this, and hopefully all future, Ryder Cups seriously. And who was at the forefront of this task force? Lefty himself of course, Phil Mickelson.
It had been usual practice for the US to put together a team of what they thought was the 12 best golfers. They’d have them show up the week before the Ryder Cup, gel together, and go out and dominate. The dominance was there… but on the European side. Look at the facts. The Europeans had won eight out of the last 10 Ryder Cups, sometimes in dominant fashion. Something or things had to change and the Task Force made this happen.
At the forefront calling for these changes was Phil Mickelson, and despite the fact that I am a known Phil antagonist, I commend him. Phil saw the importance of the Ryder Cup and forced others in the US camp to take it seriously. Look what happens when you take things seriously — you get results. Of course the real importance of this Task Force may not be seen until the next Ryder Cup in 2018, when we defend the cup in Paris, but for this weekend it seems to be a fantastic idea.
Going into this Ryder Cup we heard a lot of chatter about the process and who was really in charge of this team, DL3 or Phil. Despite some press conference gaffs and some bashing by Phil we opened up Friday’s play with a sweep of foursomes. To put this in context, since 1985 the US has only won 54 ½ foursome points. It hasn’t been since 1981 that we swept a foursome series. Talk about a great way to start a tournament and give some validity to this so called “Task Force”. Of course this lead quickly seemed trivial as we ended Friday with a 5-3 lead. One thing was clear, this Ryder Cup was going to be interesting.
Saturday began with a bang for the US with Rickie Fowler’s improbable birdie on one to halve the hole. That was short lived and, despite two good charges at the lead, Fowler and Phil fell short of McIlroy and Pieters, and one thing was for sure, we all better buckle our seatbelts. The morning session ended with what seemed to be a usual US collapse as Spieth and Reed gave up a 4-hole lead over the final seven holes. At one point Spieth tried to skip a shot across the water rather than playing it safe. Anyway a few clutch putts, including a HUGE halve putt on 18 by Patrick Reed, gave the US some much needed momentum.
Coming into the Ryder Cup there was talk of matching the European energy and who on the US could do it. We have seen this before, Sevi’s antics, Sergio’s roars, Ian Poulter’s putting and fist pumps. Who did the US have to match this? Enter Patrick Reed. Reed was all of those things and more this weekend. Every big putt he made, every much needed boost with a close approach he had, and who is going to forget the eagle he made on Saturday afternoon from 150 yards out? Reed carried Jordan Spieth Saturday afternoon, and quite possibly the entire US team. The energy that Reed sent throughout Hazeltine was infectious and Team USA finished the session up 9 ½ to 6 1/2 , a much better position that was expected after Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
As Saturday was winding down the Twitterverse was a buzz about the possiblity of a Reed/McIlroy showdown on Sunday. Man did we ever get lucky. The blind draw gave us Reed/McIlroy first thing Sunday morning and this tweet from Webb Simpson says it all:
If we get the Reed v McIlroy match everyone is pining for they better go out last because they are going to burn Hazeltine to the ground
— Webb Simpson (@webbsimpson1) October 1, 2016
Man did these two deliver. The only thing we were missing from this matchup today was Gus Johnson calling it. He needed to. It was a heavy weight fight, an NCAA tournanment game where the lead changes every possession for the last seven minutes of the game, a scene from a movie all rolled into one. This was the greatest stretch of golf we have seen:
— Gus Ramsey (@GusRamsey) October 2, 2016
We had celebrations, mocking celebrations, high fives after made shots by opponents, we had it all. This was fabulous golf. If you haven’t seen these two square off today you need to. In fact Golf Channel needs to give us just the 18 holes played by these two. I would watch it right now.
After Reed finished off Rory in 18 holes, with a clutch birdie putt on 18 he was able to sit back and watch with the rest of us, well accept the fact that Reed had 3.5 Ryder Cup points and we at home had zero, but you get it. It didn’t take long for the US to reclaim the title as they finished the Sunday session with a 7 ½ – 4 ½ victory to secure one of their largest Ryder Cup margins of victory since 1981. Reed was our star. He was everything we needed and more but let’s not forget the efforts of Phil today, playing one of the best rounds to halve a match with Sergio. Or the 3-0 Brandt Snedeker, where did he come from this week? It was a true team effort and the US earned this victory.
Where do we go from here? Well in 2018 we are off to Paris. Who our captain is has yet to be determined but let’s not rule out Phil. The puppet master of this win may himself take the reigns in the forefront next time, or maybe it’s too early. Regardless of who the captain is, one thing is for sure, the US Task Force is sure to stick around if these are the results that are produced.