GLENEAGLES, Scotland (Reuters) – Europe maintained their Ryder Cup stranglehold over the United States with a crushing five-point victory on Sunday as rookie Jamie Donaldson had the honour of securing the decisive point to make it eight wins in the last 10 matches.
Starting the day 10-6 up, Europe needed four points to retain the trophy they won after coming back from the same score two years ago and got there with plenty to spare, winning the singles battle 6-1/2 – 5-1/2 for an overall 16-1/2 – 11-1/2 victory.
The result was a ringing endorsement for the sensitive and thoughtful captaincy of Paul McGinley, who joins the Ryder Cup Hall of Fame having also sunk the putt that won the trophy in 2002.
“I did the easy bit, and I really mean that,” said McGinley.
“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.”
If it was all champagne and smiles for the hosts, the American team’s week ended in somewhat, and unusually, acrimonious style when Phil Mickelson slammed the tactics of his captain Tom Watson, who he said had not engaged with his players and should have used the “pod” system that worked so well for their last victory in 2008.
No amount of engagement, planning or even podding could have stopped Rory McIlroy on Sunday as his superlative 5&4 demolition of Rickie Fowler set Europe on their way.
Graeme McDowell, who fought back from three down at the turn, then beat Jordan Spieth to add a second point.
American rookie Patrick Reed completed a wonderful personal weekend when he got his side’s first point, with Mickelson and Matt Kuchar also victorious, but there was no real sense of tension as Europe were well placed in so many other matches.
Martin Kaymer, who sunk the putt to complete the Miracle of Medinah two years ago, chipped in for an eagle to beat Bubba Watson 4&2 and Justin Rose, Europe’s stand-out performer with four points from five matches, came back from four down to halve with Hunter Mahan.
Then began the biennial Ryder Cup game of trying to work out who would secure the decisive point, and it turned out to be the 38-year-old Welshman Donaldson.
Four up with four to play he had already ensured Europe would at least half the match and retain the cup but he made sure he finished in style by hitting a stunning approach to within two feet on the 15th.
Unsure whether to concede the putt, the match and the Ryder Cup, his opponent Keegan Bradley looked to Watson, who said: “Pick it up. They’ve won.”
Those simple words, delivered with the customary dignity of one of the most respected men in the game, sparked the usual pandemonium of celebration as the green disappeared beneath a mass of humanity.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Donaldson, who won three points out of three over the weekend.
“You can’t put words to it. Just a perfect yardage and wedge shot of my life to close the game out.”
Watson, who remains the last man to lead the U.S. to victory on foreign soil 21 years ago, was out-thought by McGinley and was already coming in for widespread criticism for his tactics even before the final match ended.
“We made them think about us early on in the singles and then they turned it on,” he said. “They are stacked with great players, but we came in here thinking we could beat them.
“The foursomes play is what separated the two teams.”
Europe’s combined 7-1 victory in the two foursomes sessions, after losing both fourballs, indeed gave them the cushion they wanted.