2014 Ryder Cup: A Wale(s) of a Finish
By Torleif Sorenson on 9/28/14
After winning all but one of eight points in the Friday and Saturday afternoon foursomes, Team Europe held a 10-6 lead in the 2014 Ryder Cup. Just four more points out of a possible 12 in the Sunday singles matches would secure the Ryder Cup for another two years. Their American opponents would need a near-miraculous 8½ out of those 12 points to win back the Cup — and to win it on foreign soil for the first time since 1993, when Tom Watson was also the U.S. captain.
In the end, 38-year-old Jamie Donaldson from Pontypridd, Wales made a "Wale" of an approach shot at the 15th hole to seal the doom of Team USA.
Once upon a time, the young Welshman Jamie Donaldson was told by a doctor that if he wanted to fully recover from a back injury and avoid further damage, he should stop playing golf. Instead, Donaldson persevered — and with one magnificent approach shot, he wrote for himself a proud and admirable chapter in Ryder Cup history.
But even before today's singles matches got underway, this writer opined that the Americans' poor performance in the Friday and Saturday afternoon foursomes doomed them beyond any realistic chance of recovery. U.S. captain Tom Watson admitted as much in his first interview with NBC after the Cup had been decided.
The Ryder Cup does not have a Conn Smythe Trophy equivalent or other formal recognition for a "most valuable player." But even as much as Jamie Donaldson and Victor Dubuisson were absolutely essential to Team Europe's victory, we must designate Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose as the deserving co-recipients of a proverbial MVP award in the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Rose overcame a wasp-sting at the 9th on Friday morning to slam the door on Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, 5 & 4, then took down Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson in their Friday afternoon foursome. On Saturday morning, Rose drained a 25-foot snake for a birdie at the 5th and another one at the 8th to square his match. Rose's putter was white-hot at 13 and 16 to shoot down Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. Then in the afternoon, Rose's six-footer won the 18th hole and salvaged a half-point from an exhausted Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
On Sunday, Rose was 4-down after six holes, but roared back and mercilessly cut down Mahan with four straight birdies to square their match. His magnificent recovery from a gorse bush at the 13th was a thing of beauty, then he captured a half-point when Mahan came apart at the 18th hole. Rose was arguably the hottest putter of the entire competition.
G-Mac stared down Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson on Friday afternoon and convincingly took down Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker on Saturday afternoon — helping to produce two of Europe's seven foursome points. On Sunday, McDowell roared back from 3-down to Spieth, then darkened Spieth's hopes by hitting the flagstick at the 15th.
In the end, the best team won — not just by playing better golf, but by capitalizing in the Friday and Saturday afternoon foursomes... and by not complaining and moaning when a few things did not go according to plan.
All of this will ratchet up the pressure even more when Team Europe and the Americans meet in two years' time at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minnesota.
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Photo-captures by Torleif Sorenson
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