No Sunday Magic for U.S as Europe wins Ryder Cup

2014 Ryder Cup

The U.S. Ryder Cup team came to Gleneagles looking for redemption, all they found was a familiar sight.

Needing a Sunday miracle like the Europeans pulled off two years ago at Medinah, the U.S. came up short and Europe once again won the Ryder Cup, 16 1/2 – 11 1/2.

Europe led 10-6 entering the 12 Sunday singles matches just like the U.S. did in 2012, but their was no meltdown on this day. A couple rallies, a dominant victory and some timely shotmaking led Europe to its third straight victory and eighth in the last 10 meetings.

“I didn’t execute the plan; all these guys sitting at this table did. It’s easy to put it in place. It’s one thing to execute,” European captain Paul McGinley said. “I did the easy bit. They did the hard bit and I really mean that. I know what it’s like to be there as a player. I know how difficult it is to play in a Ryder Cup. I know when your heart is jumping out of your chest how incredibly excited and nervous you are. But we relish this challenge. We did it with a smile on our face, which is so important, and we did everybody proud I think.”

The U.S. need a fast start on Sunday and for a while it looked like they were going to get it. The Amercians had leads in four of the first five matches and with all that red on the board it looked like the pressure was going to build on the Europeans.

They responded.

Graeme McDowell rallied from three down at the turn to defeat Jordan Spieth 2 & 1 in the first match of the day while Rory McIlroy rolled to a 5 & 4 triumph over Rickie Fowler in the third match. Justin Rose rallied to halve his match with Hunter Mahan and despite wins from Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson, the Americans weren’t able to build any momentum and ended up losing the session, 6 1/2 – 5 1/2.

“It’s a real disappointment to my players and to me,” U.S. captain Tom Watson said. “We came over with expectations higher than the results. I have to give credit to the European Team. They were spot on.”

Matt Kucker and Ryder Cup rookie Jimmy Walker were the only other Americans to win their matches Sunday while Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson managed halves.

Watson talked early in the week about this being a redemption trip for the Americans but the American captain, looking to lead a second team to victory on foreign soil, never pushed the right buttons all week. He sat his best team, Ryder Cup rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed on Friday afternoon despite a 5 & 4 victory in their Friday morning four ball match.

Then Watson played Phil Mickelson, a 44-year-old with arthritis for two matches in the wind and cold on Friday and he ended up playing 34 holes, getting drained and then Watson sat him and partner Keegan Bradley all day Saturday. There were other missteps by the captain, riding Walker and Rickie Fowler at least one match to long for example, and it doesn’t appear that Watson’s style went over all that well.

In fact, Mickelson had no problem pining for the days of Paul Azinger and his style, which led to victory for the underdog Americans in 2008 at Valhalla.

“There were two things that allow us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger did, and one was he got everybody invested in the process,” Mickelson said. “He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod. How we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do, if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well, we had a real game plan. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”

Watson was sitting at the same table in the press conference when Mickelson made that remark and when asked for his reaction, made no apologies for having a different style. Though it’s hard to argue his was anywhere close to as effective.

“I had a different philosophy as far as being a captain of this team. You know, it takes 12 players to win. It’s not pods. It’s 12 players,” Watson said. :And I felt — I based my decisions on — yes, I did talk to the players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions as to whom to pair with. I had a different philosophy than Paul. I decided not to go that way.”

Whatever way the U.S. goes in the future something has to change. Europe has come to dominate the event so thoroughly that Sunday’s result is hardly a surprise even though the U.S. did have glimmers of hope like the play of Reed, Spieth and Walker. It will be a long two years for the U.S. between now and Hazeltine and they may find a way to overcome the odds but there is a lot of work left to do.

“We all come here and we are trying to win a Ryder Cup together, trying to pull together as 12, as one unit,” Jim Furyk said. “We’ve fallen short quite a bit, and it’s — you know, five of you have already asked me tonight what’s the winning formula and what’s the difference year-in, year-out. If I could put my finger on it, I would have changed this a long time ago but we haven’t and we are going to keep searching.”

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John Nestor
John Nestor is a Philadelphia sports fan and veteran sportswriter trapped in Connecticut. Tweet him @nestorjdn