After all of the hype over whether Tiger Woods should have been a Captain's Pick by Corey Pavin, it was another U.S. player who faltered down the stretch to give the Cup back to the Europeans. In the closest Ryder Cup in quite some time, Hunter Mahan needed to win 17 and 18 to have the Ryder Cup, but couldn't finish down the stretch as U.S. Open Champ Graeme McDowell closed him out.
It was great TV for those who saw it. The shots of the teams on the backside of the green really showed how much they cared.
The surge in singles play kept the Americans in it, but the Euros prevailed in the end. Yes, the Europeans won this round of the Cup, but what else did we learn during the championship?
Well, I don't know about you, but I saw 10 distinct things...
Regardless of what's happening on the golf course or around him, Phil Mickelson will always be smiling. Whether it's the beaming glow he emits after dropping a 20-foot putt or the painful, grimace-like smile he showcased from the sidelines on Hunter Mahan's final hole, Phil constantly grins through anything.
I have been a Mickelson fan for quite awhile and have always admired the way he can smile any struggle away, but if there were ever a time to NOT be smiling that was it. After Hunter Mahan chunked a chip from just off the green, the corners on Phil's mouth were tilted up from corner to corner. I would have much preferred a look of regret and astonishment that Tiger showcased, but then again that's Phil.
Bad form Lefty, bad form.
Going in, it was tough to not get wind of what Rory McIlroy was saying about Tiger Woods. Rory's brash and arrogant style may be a tad off-putting, but it certainly isn't uncommon among the phenoms of golf, of which there are many.
One great thing about this Ryder Cup is that it allowed some of golf's young stars opportunities to shine. We all know about Rory McIlroy and the 62 he had in his final round to pick up his first Tour win. And, many know of Dustin Johnson's successes and failures this year on tour.
Rickie Fowler, however, was relatively unknown amongst casual golf fans. No more. Fowler birdied the final four holes of his singles match against another young golf stud, Edoardo Molinari, to halve the match and keep the U.S. alive. This flurry of youngsters keeps people interested in golf, even when Tiger fails to contend.
The U.S. faced an early deficit after the four-ball and foursome matches, but surged back during the single match play section. Tiger and Phil both won their matches four up. Rickie Fowler won the last four holes to halve his match. Jeff Overton, Zach Johnson, and Dustin Johnson all won their singles matches handily as well. Head to head, the U.S. appeared to have the more talented team as it either won each match or made the ones it did not win a little more interesting.
Though the U.S. showed better one-on-one talent, the Euros won the team section with relative ease. I am not sure what the reasoning for this could be. Perhaps their players get along a bit more, perhaps it was just coincidence, but whatever the reason is, it's why they held on to win in the end.
The early lead created by the play of the best ball teams allowed for some leeway in the singles play and Corey Pavin's squad just fell short of an amazing come from behind win.
Regardless of where you're from, you cannot deny that the comraderie shown by both teams was fantastically entertaining. Team golf shows that competitive side of golf a little bit more than single play does because there's just something special about a team celebration that you can't get out of watching one person celebrate.
Also, although I was rooting for the Americans, it was fun to see the jubilation from the Euros spraying champagne all over their teammates after a tough win.
Who knew? In the past, it has always seemed, at least to me, like the players are less than fully invested in the Ryder Cup. Many players, not all but many, tended to have disinterested looks on their faces as if to say, "OK, when can I leave?"
And to be fair, most of those looks were on the faces on the U.S. golfers. The Euros have consistently been more emotionally invested in the Cup's outcome.
That was definitely not the case this year. To be able to see Hunter Mahan break down into tears at the press conference really shook me. They really do care about this event, perhaps more than they let on. And, the celebration displayed by the Europeans certainly reinforced this feeling.
After a golf season that saw victory snatched away from Lee Westwood on several stages of varying importance, his showing at the Ryder Cup convinced me that he is one of the best out there. He may even be No. 1 right now (since Phil doesn't seem interested in it). Westwood threw down a 2-1-1 this weekend and was the superstar of the first three rounds.
I am still not sure he has the clutch gene he'll need to start winning major championships. I saw him choke many times down the stretch this season and losing the opening singles match does not bode well for the future, but without a doubt he has the talent to do it.
A mere week after clinching the Fed Ex Cup and a crisp $10 million paycheck, the best player of this past season failed to be on the winning side once in the 2010 Ryder Cup. Furyk did face some serious challenges, he had a five birdie performance that would have been good for a win against any other European player besides the one who beat him, Luke Donald.
Many, myself included, anticipated a big week from Furyk after closing out that FedEx Cup last week, but for some reason the opposite occurred. Most notably, his putting was shaky and a win from him would have kept the Cup with the American team.
Reduced to tears after sinking the hopes of the U.S. team with a chunk, one can't help but feel for Hunter Mahan.
Mahan is a phenomenal talent and by all accounts a great guy. It's gonna be a tough few months for Mahan, having to replay that chip in his head over and over again, but he will get passed this. He has too much talent not to.
Hunter will be back on this team in 2012 and he'll do it by playing his way on. He may even knock down a major championship or two on the way. And when he travels to Illinois in 2012 to play for his country, my guess is that he will ask for that last match again to prove to himself and his country that he can and will get it done.
The look on Tiger's face could have been enough to convince me of this, but his play topped even that. Woods has always been a fierce competitor who hates to lose, but he showed that and more last weekend. Tiger went 3-1-0 at the Ryder Cup, helped by Steve Stricker just a bit.
His game improved steadily every day, though, and on Monday he came ready to play like only Tiger can. He was nine-under in his match, it only lasted 15 holes. Give him a few months of practice and expect to see the same old Tiger Woods we used to fist pump with from the couch. Now that his marital problems are at least more stable, expect him to hit the practice range hard and come out with a renewed sense of hunger in 2011.