World golf’s answer to the Super Bowl is best remembered for pulling the major championship classic of the century out of the national pastime’s sporting doldrums.
After the U.S. finished last in singles at Brookline, just two points behind the European Cup Team which previously the Ryder Cup had resembled a warm-up for the Slam-Dunk Slam for a series of upturned balls that didn’t come close to landing on the dimpled tee.
Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which organizes the biennial competition, vowed to make the tournament more of a challenge.
“When the Europeans finished off the U.S. and the U.S. go home, we thought, you know what, this isn’t really competitive,” he told Sky Sports in 2011. “We’re not going to be happy about it.”
But the Ryder Cup fought back in 2005. This year, Henrik Stenson, the featured player in Saturday’s foursomes which made up the reverse singles exhibition, authored the piece de resistance by beating Dustin Johnson.
Stenson, paired with Bubba Watson, took four victories from four singles matches, after what had been Stenson’s first Ryder Cup.
His victory led to an almighty fist pump, in defiance of his age of 39, in which he punched the air and looked skyward.
His teammates — Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler — all slotted singles to complete another thrilling Americans victory over the Europeans.
It came after the afternoon’s excitement provided what some considered a salutary lesson in team spirit, and how serious things can get in the Ryder Cup.
Tiger Woods, still reeling from a history of poor record at the major championships, blubbed on the 17th tee after his final match.
“Winning sucks,” the fourteen-time major champion said. “When I look back on my career, I think I had a lot of years where I won a lot of tournaments, but winning sucks.”
Woods went down to England’s Paul Casey and England’s Ian Poulter 2 and 1.
Mickelson, who lost his singles to Germany’s Bernd Wiesberger of the United States, was just as distraught as he stood alongside his Ryder Cup teammate.
“This feels horrible. This hurts,” he told the world for the first time after his loss.
For what now stands as his twentieth Ryder Cup appearance, Mickelson has one point from his three matches at Hazeltine.
Mickelson and Woods were to set the tone for the American dominance at the weekend — for Woods, it was his 43rd Ryder Cup appearance, after Europe captain Darren Clarke sent Ryder Cup veterans Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood to play his pairings.
Unable to see off the challengers, neither man was able to maintain their lengthy winning streak.
Poulter was unable to defend his title he won at Brookline in 2014.
He was beaten by Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello in his singles match at 13.04 hours Saturday.
“What a thrill to be Ryder Cup captain and captain of the European team at this incredible event,” Clarke said after the match.
“I am immensely proud of all of them.
“This week was a true test of character by our team as they showed they have the character and the spirit to win the Ryder Cup.
“As captain, I am absolutely proud of my team.”
On the course, the better teams prevailed. Europe did not win a single match in foursomes, made up of four foursomes matches.
It was, though, a different story in the morning fourballs, with Europe winning the singles matches on four of the eight days to show it was leaving no stone unturned in its bid to add to its three-point lead.
One hundred sixty hours after the final buzzer, with the white Americans finally driving back home on the Patrick Reed of the U.S., the Ryder Cup was the undisputed winner for the first time in six years.