This time, there was no choking, no grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, no folding under the intense international pressure of the Ryder Cup.
Acting and playing like dare we say it? their European rivals, the United States Ryder Cup golfers not only figured out how to win the most important team competition in men’s golf, they also figured out how to dominate it.
Who knew the Americans could close out a Ryder Cup like this? Who knew they could close it out at all? Who knew they could come out on the final day Sunday with a significant three-point lead and not only hold that edge but build on it, ultimately winning, 17-11, the largest American margin of victory in this biennial event in 35 years?
Who knew U.S. golfers could perform so admirably as a team when the spotlight burned the brightest? Who knew they had this kind of a killer instinct? Who knew that 4-0 start on Friday morning was a prelude, not an anomaly?
This is going to take some getting used to, American golf fans. Across the past two decades, most of you have heard the words “Ryder Cup” and instantly recoiled in disappointment and embarrassment. Losing became a way of life for the greatest names in the game, the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
The previous 10 times the Ryder Cup was played before this week, going back to 1995, the Americans won it just twice. The last time the USA hosted this event, in 2012, the U.S. team squandered a 10-6 lead on the final day to lose by a point.
And now, this:
“Our guys handled the pressure,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said Sunday evening when asked what made him most proud. “The Europeans came in here and played unbelievable golf, from Rory (McIlroy) all the way through, there was a lot of stunning golf. Phil put up 10 birdies and only got a halve. But our team rallied together and … everybody did their part.”
There are countless ways to explain this total American victory, to personify how what once was so difficult became so easy over three sun-splashed days at Hazeltine National. People will talk about the U.S. Ryder Cup task force from now until the 2018 matches in Paris, but meetings and planning can only go so far.
Players eventually have to step up and actually win matches. Take 27-year-old Rickie Fowler. He had played in two Ryder Cups prior to this week, both U.S. losses, never winning a match. His record was a dismal 0-3-5.
Nonetheless, Love made him one of his four captain’s picks, and Fowler picked things up from there. He finally won a team match, going 1-1 over the first two days, before facing European stalwart and Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose in the fourth match on Sunday.