192. Ending the streak – America wins the 2008 Ryder Cup

valhalla-golf-club-hole-6-valhallgolfclub-comThe streak ends today.

So read a banner beside the fairway at Valhalla yesterday as the final day singles of the 2008 Ryder Cup were about to begin.

jb-holmes-kenny-perry-celebrate-ryder-cup-2008-valhalla-kentucky-usa.jpgThose words showed how much the Americans wanted to win it this time. And win it they did, as Paul Azinger and his players delivered the first USA victory since Brookline in 1999. The Kentucky twilight fell to wild scenes of jubilation and joy.

This was a true team achievement. Lining up as underdogs, without the best player in the world beside them, the Americans played wonderfully, and they putted even better.

nick-faldo-europe-paul-azinger-usa-team-captains-ryder-cup-2008-valhalla-kentucky-usaThe Ryder Cup has a habit of finding classic confrontations, and long before the first ball was struck in Louisville, the match-up between Azinger and European captain Nick Faldo had the look of another contest to be savoured.

Who could forget their duel for the British Open in 1987, where Faldo finally took his first major title in the grim rain of Muirfield? Faldo had won that day with 18 straight pars. He ground out the win.

ryder-cup-flag-2008-valhalla-kentucky-usaBut in the Ryder Cup, that’s not how victories are won.

They’re forged from inspiration, team spirit and sheer determination of will. The Europeans have long known that matchplay is a game where the world rankings mean nothing. When motivation can scale mountains.

With Tiger Woods injured, the American team was depleted. But under Paul Azinger’s leadership they breathed passion. They oozed determination. Just as in 2006 at the K-Club where the Irishman Darren Clarke’s tears had led through to triumph, so this time Kenny Perry, the Kentucky hero, faced up to his destiny. Perry played out of his socks, and so did all of his compatriots.

The European press is critical of Faldo today, not least for the tail-heavy line-up he sent out in the singles, condemning so many of his big guns to blast futile after the battle was lost. But on paper, yesterday’s match sheet held the promise of a European victory. So why didn’t it happen?

ian-poulter-ryder-cup-valhalla-kentucky-usa-2008Faldo was widely criticised for his wildcard picks of Paul Casey and Ian Poulter whilst ignoring Darren Clarke’s late run for a place. But Faldo was right.

Casey played solidly, and Poulter was a revelation, winning four points out of five. His steely-eyed stare after holing the winning putt in the Saturday fourballs surely scared Faldo’s critics and demons alike.

Yet the truth is that this Ryder Cup was decided long before then. The seeds of a US victory had been sown through the long sessions of back nine practice which Azinger had set up for his team. It was a ploy which paid dividends as the American foursomes  hung onto their early leads on the first morning, whilst the Europeans squandered theirs.

anthony-kim-ryder-cup-2008-valhalla-kentucky-usaKim and Mickelson won from three down to Harrington and McDowell. Leonard and Mahan turned round a two hole deficit against Casey and Stenson. Cink and Campbell recovered from three down to Rose and Poulter.

Three unlikely victories – and in winning Friday’s opening session for the first time in 17 years, the USA had ended a streak going back much further than Brookline. By the end of the day, the Americans were three points ahead – a margin which looked worryingly wide.

The pattern of the 2008 Ryder Cup was set. Now it was enough to hang on, and the Americans did so much more than that. They peppered the flag, they crunched the ball incredible distances across the blue Kentucky sky, and they drained their putts more surely than an Irishman downs Guinness.

valhalla-golf-club-hole-11-valhallgolfclub-comFor once, America had looked to have the weaker team, but matchplay is no respecter of reputations. So often, it’s all about body language and belief, laced with a strong dash of desire. Azinger’s men showed all those and more.

In the brash greatness of Anthony Kim, the lumberjack muscle of JB Holmes and the gleeful demeanour of Boo Weekely, the Americans had suddenly found the swagger and audacity they had struggled to find in the shadow of a Tiger.

sergio-garcia-tastes-defeat-ryder-cup-2008-valhalla-kentucky-usa

Any European golf fan knows the taste of disappointment following a Ryder Cup defeat. So often, the USA teams were almost disinterested, and yet still they would win.

It hurt, and for so long, that’s just how it was.

But it feels very different today. This American team was a revelation. The golf from both teams was of the very highest standard. And the Europeans didn’t lose this Ryder Cup.

ryder-cup-flag-2010-celtic-manor-newport-walesNo. The Americans won it. They wanted it more. The streak was ended by passion, and that’s so good for the game of golf.

So here’s to Wales in 2010 – and to a desperate American defence of this Ryder Cup, so well won in Kentucky.celtic-manor-resort-newport-wales-ryder-cup-2010

It can’t happen soon enough.

192. Ending the streak - America wins the 2008 Ryder Cup : : 192. Ending the streak - America wins the 2008 Ryder Cup : : 192. Ending the streak - America wins the 2008 Ryder Cup : : 192. Ending the streak - America wins the 2008 Ryder Cup : : 192. Ending the streak - America wins the 2008 Ryder Cup : : 192. Ending the streak - America wins the 2008 Ryder Cup

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2 responses to “192. Ending the streak – America wins the 2008 Ryder Cup

  1. Best team won, no doubt about it.
    The Spanish Aramada never left port, floundering on the choppy waters of self-doubt and failing form.

    Hats off to Faldo; Poulter, very much his Captain’s man, stepped up and stuck it to ‘em, brash, brazen and brilliant. One man can’t carry it though,; iron will won out.

    Just as well. Americans don’t like losers or losing. To go down (again) on home soil would perhaps have condemned this fabulous weekend to the backwaters of American sport, a heinous crime when the Ryder Cup stands alone as a beacon of pure sporting endeavour in this money-mad world.

    The best team won, and thank goodness for that.
    Surely it’s the least we sporting nuts can ask for?

  2. Yes, Sweder. The best team won, and it was a great result for the Ryder Cup – darn it.

    Only 101 weeks to the 2010 edition in Wales. Bring it on!

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