Europe have defeated the USA by 18.5 points to 9.5 for the second successive time to clinch their third consecutive Ryder Cup after a day of dominance and high emotion at the K Club in Ireland.
Ian Woosnam’s team registered their biggest ever margin of victory in the final day singles, outscoring the USA 8.5 to 3.5 to seal a memorable and comprehensive victory in front of an enormous and vociferous crowd.
Colin Montgomerie led from the front and recorded a narrow one hole win over David Toms in the opening match, shortly after Stewart Cink had given the USA early hope by defeating Sergio Garcia 4&3 in one of the day’s big shocks. Tiger Woods then registered a win of his own over Robert Karlsson, but from the moment Paul Casey held off a late rally to beat Jim Furyk 2&1 in the third match out the writing seemed on the wall for the Americans.
A glance at the leaderboard showed them only a sea of blue, as Europe tore into the middle order of the US team with ruthless efficiency. In the space of a few minutes Luke Donald and David Howell both clinched their ties, leaving Sweden’s Henrik Stenson with a putt on the 15th green that won his match with fellow Ryder Cup rookie Vaughn Taylor and won the Ryder Cup for Europe.
It meant that the Irish crowd were denied the chance to see Darren Clarke hole the winning putt by a matter of minutes. A few moments later, with the Ryder Cup already assured, he put the finishing touches to a 3&2 win over Zach Johnson amid scenes of emotion and jubilation that may never be seen again on a golf course. Clarke (pictured), who lost his wife to cancer last month, broke down in tears shortly after securing his third point out of three, a return that fully justified Woosnam’s decision to select him as a wildcard.
“This is as good as it gets – just fantastic,” said Clarke, wiping away the tears from his face.
“Being part of this team has done a lot for me, especially seeing how much people care for me and cared for [his wife] Heather. There are too many memories for me to list, but my team-mates and the American players have been wonderful to me.”
“I tried to get myself into good shape when I finally arrived here and it has paid off. Woosie has been really supportive of me and he’s a great captain. You only have to look at the scoreboard for evidence of that.”
Woosnam was a relieved man after witnessing his team fulfill his prediction that they were one of the best European squads ever assembled, and thanked the Irish crowd for their amazing support over the last week. He silenced all of his critics after ensuring all twelve of his men made significant contributions to a comprehensive victory over a team that included the top three golfers in the world and multiple Major championship winners.
“We’ve heard some bad words in the run-up to this event but we haven’t done too badly have we?”, he said.
“Not winning with such a strong team was what I worried about most but these guys have done fantastically. I can’t say enough about them and it’s been very emotional. The crowd have really got behind us and it’s made a big difference. I knew it would be loud but I wasn’t expecting all this,” he said of the wild celebrations.
The final three matches were played out in a carnival atmosphere, and by the time everything was complete the crowd had seen another hole-in-one the 14th by Scott Verplank (who won his match against Padraig Harrington 4&3) and also seen further European victories by Jose Maria Olazabal (beating Phil Mickelson 2&1) and Lee Westwood, who finished off proceedings by defeating Chris DiMarco on the 18th by two holes. In between all this, Ireland’s own Paul McGinley secured a half against the impressive debutant JJ Henry with a sporting concession on the 18th.
It was arguably a more comprehensive victory for Europe than their win at Oakland Hills in the USA two years ago. Despite the scorelines being identical and Europe having home advantage this time, it was the contributions of every single European player that made this Ryder Cup particularly memorable. By the time the final day got underway this morning, every player had appeared at least twice and every player had contributed at least one full point in establishing Europe’s four point overnight lead. Europe also won all five of the sessions of play, outscoring their rivals throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
With the European team’s average age in the early to mid thirties, the future looks bleak for the USA in an event they once dominated completely. The main bright spot for them were the performances of some of their younger players – particularly Vaughn Taylor and JJ Henry, who impressed the media and the Europeans alike during their first Ryder Cup.
Of more concern were the lacklustre performances of their big-name players, who underperformed for the second Ryder Cup in a row. Tiger Woods won today to give him three points out of five, but the contributions of Jim Furyk (two points out of five) and Phil Mickelson (half a point out of five) simply weren’t enough.
The early blame for this latest US defeat is being levelled at the US qualifying system, which rewards occassional top performances instead of consistency. However, with skipper Tom Lehman insisting before the tournament that his top players had to perform if the USA were to win, the real inquest must surely centre around finding out why their best players are unable to contribute to the level their ability in individual strokeplay suggests they should.
SUNDAY SINGLES RESULTS
EUROPE 18.5 – 9.5 USA
C Montgomerie (Eur) beat D Toms (USA) 1 hole
S Cink (USA) beat S Garcia (Eur) 4&3
P Casey (Eur) beat J Furyk (USA) 2&1
T Woods (USA) beat R Karlsson (Eur) 3&2
L Donald (Eur) beat C Campbell (USA) 2&1
P McGinley (Eur) halved with JJ Henry (USA)
D Clarke (Eur) beat Z Johnson (USA) 3&2
H Stenson (Eur) beat V Taylor (USA) 4&3
D Howell (Eur) beat B Wetterich (USA) 5&4
JM Olazabal (Eur) beat P Mickelson (USA) 2&1
L Westwood (Eur) beat C DiMarco (USA) 2 holes
S Verplank (USA) beat P Harrington (Eur) 4&3