The 2016 Ryder Cup, unfortunately, saw the European team unable to match their feat from four years ago when they accomplished the seemingly impossible task of overturning a four point deficit going into the final day of singles match play. Indeed, there was to be no repeat of the ‘Miracle at Medinah’. Not this time.
Despite containing the current Masters champion, British Open champion and world number three, not to mention a plethora of talent forming a strong backbone to the team, the Europeans left themselves an insurmountable challenge at the Hazeltine National Golf Club, Minnesota, as they went into the singles matches on the Saturday three points behind their American counterparts. They faced an American side whose overall average ranking was eleven places higher at 16 and boasted the world number two and four, with a further five players ranked inside the top 20 of the world’s best.
A thunderous start by the accomplished American team saw them lead 4-0 after Friday’s foursomes –in which partners take alternate shots – with notable performances from both Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson. This magnificent start to the tournament secured the USA’s first clean sweep of the opening session for 41 years and left the European captain Darren Clarke with a lot to ponder. Nevertheless, fired up by the raucous American crowd, the defending champions responded, taking the second session 3-1 and cutting the overall lead to 5-3 by Friday evening. Europe were back in the contest. Looking to capitalise on this momentum, Clarke and his men then further narrowed the American’s advantage after Saturday morning’s foursomes with some outrageous golf from Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters. Signs of nerves for the hosts, caused by the possibility of a European comeback, soon dissipated however, with the team from USA finding their stride to clinch three out of the four points from Saturday evening’s fourballs. Some remarkable stroke play from former world number one Jordan Spieth and the in-form Patrick Reed, left Olympic gold and silver medallists Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson helpless, condemning them to a 2&1 defeat. This left the Americans with the aforementioned 3 point advantage going into the final day.
It was at this point in the contest at Medinah where the Europeans found that little extra, that spark of inspiration, that rousing speech from Captain Jose Maria Olazabal. Four years on and that extra was nowhere to be found. Even Europe’s talisman McIlroy, impassioned by the occasion, was unable to gain a point in the first match of the day, summing up how the performance from Europe can be described: just not quite good enough. His battle with Patrick Reed encapsulated everything positive about the Ryder Cup: mixing brilliant shot-making with crowd-pleasing theatricals, creating the high level drama that we have become so used to in recent tournaments. Reed’s victory galvanised the Americans after which their overall success never seemed in doubt. Despite resistance from Stenson, Kaymer, Pieters and Cabrera-Bello, seven out of twelve successes in the singles matches secured a second victory in five tournaments for the Americans. The overall score line of 17-11 does not reflect the narrowness of the victory however and left an enraptured crowd calling for more.
The 2016 Ryder Cup arguably lacked the final day tension present at the previous two tournaments, however it did not disappoint in terms of the actual golf on show. Both sides, after some world class performances, will be able to take many positives out of the competition and look ahead to Le Golf National, France, in 2018 where the next showdown in this historic event will take place, with Europe looking to win back a title which they have dominated throughout this century.
Photo Credit: Associated Press