On Sunday night I sat down at my computer and made an honest attempt to write about the American collapse which cost the United States the Ryder Cup earlier that afternoon. I was searching for the words that describe how a U.S. team that held a six-point edge late in the afternoon on Saturday and a 10-6 lead entering Sunday’s singles matches, failed to record only four of the 12 available points needed to recapture the cup.
Twenty-four hours later, I still can’t explain how the Americans let it all fall apart.
We should have known it was going to be a bizarre day though, as it began with the top-ranked player in the world MIA at the golf course within a half-hour of his tee time. Rory McIlroy needed a police escort to arrive at the golf course in time for his match with American Keegan Bradley.
The best part of the whole ordeal was McIlroy’s initial excuse. The Irish star claimed he had been watching television, and got confused about the time because the program he was watching kept referring to the eastern time zone. The only problem with that rationale is, if he was going by eastern time, it would have gotten him to the course an hour early, rather than 60 minutes late.
McIlroy later admitted he lost track of time while chatting with his girlfriend on his laptop. To his credit though, McIlroy did not let his lack of warm up time effect his play. He beat Bradley and set the tone for Europe’s remarkable rally.
The Americans biggest problem was their inability to conquer the final two holes. Three times the U.S. carried a one-up lead into the par three 17th, only to end up losing the match. The repeated body blows killed the crowd’s enthusiasm and eventually dampened the Americans’ spirit.
Webb Simpson began the trend, falling on the final two holes to Ian Poultner. Phil Mickelson followed suit, and has been taking all kinds of heat in the aftermath for his reaction to Justin Rose beating him. In Mickelson’s defense, Rose made three incredible putts to storm back and beat the left-hander (starting with his par-saver on 16 to halve that hole). I also don’t think Mickelson believed the Americans were in any real danger of losing the cup at the time of Rose’s comeback. Still, smiling after Rose earned a big point late was something that Mickelson should not have done. For a guy who does almost everything right publicly throughout his career, it was a serious misstep.
But the most egregious loss of the day came from Jim Furyk, who played the final two holes about as poorly as possible. Just like in the U.S. Open and in several other tournaments this season, Furyk’s game could not hold up to the white hot pressure of the big stage. He bogeyed each of the final two holes to allow Sergio Garcia to beat him with pars on 17 and 18.
Furyk, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods each turned in brutal performances. The trio combined to go a paltry 0-9-1 in the three-day event, with the only half-point coming from Woods, in what turned out to be a meaningless final match. Stricker’s bogey on 17 ended up being the straw that broke the Americans’ backs.
It was a brutal day for American golf and one of the toughest losses to endure in Ryder Cup history.