x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Team spirit behind US triumph

The US were never headed in their quest to recapture the Ryder Cup and bring to an end a decade of misery which had brought them only one success in six battles with their arch European rivals.

Members of the US team pose with the Ryder Cup after their victory.
Members of the US team pose with the Ryder Cup after their victory.

The United States were never headed in their quest to recapture the Ryder Cup and bring to an end a decade of misery which had brought them only one success in six battles with their arch European rivals. Paul Azinger, their inspirational captain, was a man on a mission and he deserved to make the congratulatory speech ahead of his European counterpart Nick Faldo, who will be remembered more for his outstanding record as a player than for his prowess in the delicate art of motivating a cluster of multi-millionaires to play for national pride. European teams have bonded superbly in recent times under their respective leaders - outstanding personalities like Seve Ballesteros and Sam Torrance for instance - but were lacking something in Valhalla as their big guns failed to fire under Faldo's instructions. Azinger's men resembled the European teams of old as they hugged and embraced each other on the way to what in the end was a flattering 16½-11½triumph - a scoreline that does not reflect how tight things became midway through the final afternoon. "I felt so much pressure but I had no control," said an ecstatic Azinger after avenging the painful defeats suffered by his recent predecessors Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton and Tom Lehman. "I watched guys play with heart, instinct, and courage and I'm so happy. These guys earned it and they really deserved it." Azinger changed the US selection system in an attempt to stem a European tidal wave in this biennial battle and asked for four captain's picks, rather than the normal two which his counterpart Faldo was restricted to. That flexibility led to the Americans having half a team of Ryder Cup rookies, but you would not have known it as the whole squad rose superbly to the captain's rallying call, none more so than Anthony Kim who, at 23, was given the enormous responsibility of going out first in the series of 12 singles. So often that the opening encounter has set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, as Scotland's Colin Montgomerie has proved in that position in the past with inspirational performances for the Europeans. Kim was up to the task; sadly his opponent Sergio Garcia was not, and what looked like being the most exciting of the singles match-ups turned into a highly embarrassing mismatch in which the marauding Kim defeated the moody Garcia 5 & 4. Garcia, who carried an enviable record of 15 points out of 20 into his fifth Ryder Cup, looked nothing like the key player he has been in previous years and looked as though he wanted to get off the course as soon as possible as Kim enthused about "loving every minute" of his triumph. "This is the most exciting day I've ever had," said Kim. "I wouldn't trade this for US$10million. This has been an experience of a lifetime. I'm going to draw back on things that happened this week and the friendships I've made. It was all in all a great experience. I'm so excited to be here in Kentucky and winning the Ryder Cup."

wjohnson@thenational.ae