Is Europe’s dominance a threat to the Ryder Cup?

Sport

With Europe winning their third successive Ryder Cup to complete a hat-trick of victories over Team USA, their dominance of the golf’s greatest match was further enhanced. They have now won an impressive eight out of the last ten Ryder Cups, with the USA struggling to stay ahead by the end of the final day. While European fans celebrate the success, the question is starting to emerge of whether or not the overwhelming dominance of Europe will cause fans of Team USA to turn off their televisions and to stop paying for the privilege of being a spectator?

As the sun rose from behind the Scottish hills on Friday 26th September, the wait was finally over and Gleneagles was ready to welcome the stars of the Ryder Cup. It’s like no other golfing event, with vocal fans roaring around the golf course and passionate golfers cheering on their fellow team members. The atmosphere is what makes it so great. As the first match walked through the tunnel and onto the first tee, the crowd erupted, and the three day battle began. The morning saw eight players from each team competing in Fourballs. Half way through the morning session, the eight Europeans were looking good and were confident of delivering points for the team. However, by the end of the session, it was clear that these three days were going to be a tough fight. Europe ended up going 2½ – 1½ down. The star pairing from Medinah of Mickleson and Bradley continued their unbeaten run by beating arguably Europe’s best pair of McIlroy and Garcia (World Number 1 and 3 respectively). The USA’s rookies (the boisterous Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth) also turned up with a point to make and thrashed European rookie, Gallacher and veteran Poulter to win 5&4. There was hope however for the Europeans in Rose and Stenson, who dominated their match to also win 5&4.

When the players returned for the afternoon session, it was Foursomes they would have to try and master. With this being the format most different to what they are used to, it was interesting to see which team could really work together to find an advantage. Luckily for Europe, it was they who took to this format best and they dominated the afternoon session winning handsomely 3½ – ½. The stars of this session were not the American rookies, who had been rested by captain Watson, but the European rookies. Donaldson went out first with Westwood, who was competing in his ninth Ryder Cup. They beat foursome specialists, Furyk and Kuchar 2UP, playing with great consistency and steadiness. Dubuisson then made his Ryder Cup debut alongside McDowell in the anchor match, and hit some terrific shots, playing better than he had ever done before. At the end of the first day, Europe went in with a 5 – 3 lead and great confidence going into the second day.

Mother Nature blessed the home of golf once more with another glorious sunrise at the start of the second day. With the arrival of the weekend, the crowd was even bigger, louder, and more excited to watch the battle continue. The second day saw a repeat of the first day results. The USA once again dominated the morning fourballs, winning 2½ – 1½, with the European team coming out fighting in the afternoon and winning the foursomes 3½ – ½ once more. This meant that by the end of the fourballs and foursomes, the score was 10 – 6 to the home team, just as it had been two years previous before the miracle comeback at Medinah. This was perhaps a glimmer of hope for the US team, whose hopes of avenging Europe for two years previous were quickly fading. It would all come down to the final day and the singles.

As the players went out onto the course for the final day, it seemed that America were not going to give up without a fight. Early on the board was dominated with red, with McDowell struggling against rookie Spieth, and Europe’s rock, Justin Rose, was also down to Hunter Mahan. Rory McIlory came out determined to bring back a point for Europe, and obliterated Rickie Fowler, going 5UP after the first six holes. He beat Fowler 5&4 to post Europe’s first point of the day, meaning they only needed three points from the other eleven games to retain the Ryder Cup. McDowell turned his game around in some style, winning 2&1 in the end, and Martin Kaymer continued his singles success by winning 4&2. With a hard fought ½ from Rose in the fourth game, Europe needed just one point to win the Ryder Cup. It all seemed to come down to rookie, Jamie Donaldson, who was 4UP against Keegan Bradley with five to play. He had a put on the 14th green to go 5UP and to win the game 5&4, which would be the winning point for Europe. It ended up just inches away, which guaranteed a half point and the retaining of the Ryder Cup. However, it was the outright win the players, captain, and fan were all waiting for, and they all went marching off to the 15th. Donaldson hit a great tee shot onto the middle of the fairway, but it was his second shot that was the winner. In his own words, he hit the shot of his life. As Bradley walked onto the 15th green he saw it was a gimme and conceded the hole. This meant Donaldson won the match 4&3 and earned the point that won the Ryder Cup.

The scenes after the handshake were pure joy from all those supporting Europe, as well as from the players and staff, who could not contain their happiness. The cheers were erupting around Gleneagles, and the players who had already finished were hugging each other and began their celebrations. The last few matches still had to be finished, and Europe ended up winning 16½ – 11½. Captain McGinley was highly praised by all of the players and had ended up victorious.

After the final ceremony by the 18th hole, and the congratulating of Europe, attention turned quickly to the American team and what was next for them. Tom Watson had appeared to have got it all wrong and came under attack from one of his own players, Phil Mickleson. Although this attack was widely condemned, his points about how the USA had lost their way and needed to find a winning mentality again were important issues that need to be addressed. He brought up the USA’s most recent win, back in 2008, and asked the next captain, whoever that may be, to learn from Paul Azinger.

Most importantly the USA need to find their fighting spirit and hunger for the Ryder Cup, and learn how to win again. If they don’t, and Europe manages to win away for a second consecutive time, the American fans may start to lose interest. What makes this different to all of the other golfing events is the fans and the atmosphere around the course. It is vital for the Ryder Cup that this is maintained across the pond in the USA, and that they keep getting excited to support their country. If not, what is currently one of the greatest sporting events in the world may see a decline, and for all golfing fans that is a scary prospect that I am sure none of them would want to happen. So yes, as a passionate supporter of the European team I am suggesting that an American win might not be such a bad thing, and might even be necessary to save my favourite event in the golfing calendar.