By Larry Fine
CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) – A more team-oriented U.S. Ryder Cup squad took care of business on Sunday, completing a 17-11 thumping of Europe to snap a losing streak and validate changes in their approach to golf’s top team competition.
More input from players, more continuity among the team leaders and an additional late captain’s pick were among changes made to the U.S. system.
“We haven’t had a good run lately and I’m thrilled for them that they got the win,” said U.S. captain Davis Love III. “Proud of the way they competed all week. I’m proud of their attitude. But mostly proud of the way they came together as a family.”
Ryan Moore, added as the 12th player the day before the team was to arrive in Minnesota following his gritty runner-up showing at the Tour Championship, was the man who ended the long U.S. wait for Ryder Cup redemption.
Moore clinched the rousing win over Europe on Sunday by beating Lee Westwood 1-up for his second point of the competition.
Team mates, families and friends poured out onto the green to celebrate.
Emotional U.S. assistant captain Bubba Watson wept on the shoulder of captain Davis Love III as the two hugged on the 18th green.
“Our guys handled the pressure. Europe came in and played unbelievable golf. The great thing is we didn’t battle between all of us, we all pulled together,” said Love.
The Americans had last won the biennial match play event in 2008 as Europe ran off three Cup victories in a row, extending their domination to eight of the previous 10 meetings.
“At the end of the day, the American guys played better than we did,” said European captain Darren Clarke. “They holed the putts when they had to, and we lipped out. But that’s happened the other way around for quite some time.”
Brandt Snedeker, who registered a 3-0 record, set Moore up for the winning point by claiming a 3 and 1 victory over English rookie Andy Sullivan.
On a brilliantly sunny day, the U.S. side capitalized on their greater depth to close out victory as they faced four of Europe’s six rookies in the late matches, winning all of them.
The U.S. victory charge came after some titanic early matches in which Europe, who front-loaded their best players at the top of the order, closed the gap to one point after entering the deciding 12 singles matches trailing by three.
Sensational shot-making and scoring made for great theater in front of some 50,000 roaring fans.
Patrick Reed and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, the hottest players and most demonstrative competitors on their respective teams, staged an outrageous contest of can-you-top-this in their opening nine.
Reed’s 1-up win gave him a U.S.-leading 3.5 points from his five matches.
Later in the day, Cup veterans Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia waged an epic battle, with 19 birdies between them.
After a rousing finish in which the Spaniard closed with four birdies in a row and Mickelson birdied four of the last five holes, they appropriately ended up all square.
Henrik Stenson and rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera-Bello closed the gap for Europe, narrowing the U.S. lead to 10 1/2 to 9 1/2, but the Americans held a big edge in the later matches.
Sweden’s Stenson beat Jordan Spieth, Pieters of Belgium topped JB Holmes and Spain’s Cabrera-Bello defeated PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker — all by 3 and 2.
The 24-year-old Pieters set a European rookie record by registering four points and became the first Ryder debutant since 1999 to play in all five sessions.
Reed and McIlroy set the tone for a brilliant day of golf, with the eighth hole producing an outstanding Ryder Cup moment.
McIlroy rolled in a long birdie bomb and roared in delight, playing to the suddenly silenced crowd by putting his hand to his ear and shouting, “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you,” in extravagant fashion.
Reed then matched McIlroy by pouring in his 20-foot birdie putt to an explosive celebration by the crowd, and wagged his finger at McIlroy and waved his arms to whoop up even louder cheers.
As he walked off the green, Reed was met by a smiling McIlroy, who bumped fists with his rival in a classic Ryder Cup tableau.
(Editing by Andrew Both/Mark Lamport-Stokes)