Ryder Cup: Most memorable moments from 2016 at Hazeltine
What a weekend at Hazeltine.
Unpredictable and emotional, world class golfers exhibited savvy and skills, and floored Ryder Cup legends from the past with their nerve and execution in such a pressure-packed arena.
Oh, and the fans were into it too.
Just when some wondered if the U.S. could ever win again, they won by the largest margin since 1981. The team’s depth made the difference. For the first time since 1975, every player won a match and 10 of the 12 earned two points or more.
Enjoy reliving the most memorable moments of the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Americans sweep a session
Arnold Palmer’s golf bag from the 1975 Ryder Cup matches stood near the first tee Friday morning. The Americans walked past it, charged onto Hazeltine National and accomplished something which hadn’t been done since Palmer captained that team. Two years after being crushed 7-1 in foursomes at Gleneagles, the Americans flipped the script, blanking Europe 4-0 in the alternate-shot format. The sweep validated the Task Force’s work and the hours spent deciding which partners paired best. It also let their opponents know that this year might be different. And, it energized the home crowd, as if they needed more juice.
Rory takes a bow
Rory McIlroy plays most of his golf in the U.S. and is typically adored by fans here. But at Hazeltine National, the top-ranked European was public enemy number one, target of good-natured and mean-spirited words, often on the same hole. McIlroy heard the taunts, interacted with the massive galleries and elevated his game. He blasted drives, hit towering pin-seeking irons and enjoyed perhaps the best putting weekend of his life. On Friday afternoon in a four-ball match Europe had to have, McIlroy sank an eagle putt on No. 16 to give he and partner Thomas Pieters a 3 & 2 victory over Dustin Johnson / Matt Kuchar. Then, he turned to the fans and took a bow or two. Afterward, he said he’d planned the celebration before he putted. It’s a reaction seen only in the Ryder Cup.
Spaniards storm back
Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, two young Texans, look like the foundation of the U.S. team for the next two decades. But in their foursomes match on Saturday morning, a wily European veteran and his new partner pulled off an amazing comeback to keep their side in contention for the Cup. Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello trailed 4-down with six to play, but stormed back. After Spieth’s 30-foot birdie putt skimmed the edge at 17, Cabrera-Bello drained a 15-footer to square the match. On 18, the Americans halved the match when Reed made a ticklish 5-footer for par. After controlling the match for 12 holes, they were fortunate to avoid what would’ve been a devastating collapse.
Rory and Reed put on a show for the ages
RELATED: Reed, Rory steal the show on Sunday
Prior to Sunday’s singles matches, nobody could’ve predicted the 24 players on the two sides would combine for more than 120 birdies and a handful of eagles. But the front nine of the first match showed what was possible. Had we not seen it, we never would’ve believed the shot-making, putting and raw emotions shown by Reed, who is known for such, and McIlroy, who is not. Their action created unforgettable tension and drama. Viewers were on the edge of their seat - unless they’d already fallen to the floor in disbelief. McIlroy and Reed set the gold standard for golf in a four-hole stretch. They holed two putts from a combined 80 feet on No. 8. A halved match would have been fitting but Reed wasn’t interested in sharing the point. He rolled in a birdie putt on the 18th to secure the full point and cap an amazing opening act.
Mickelson and Garcia
How good was this Ryder Cup? Every seasoned golf observer felt certain Reed - McIlroy was the best match ever - until roughly 90 minutes later. Two of the old guns proved they have plenty of bullets left to fire. Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, rivals for nearly 20 years, elevated their games to a point teetering on unconsciousness. Their combined best ball score was 58, 14-under. Mickelson made 10 birdies. Garcia made nine. After bogeying No. 11, a par-5, Mickelson, playing in his record 11th Ryder Cup, ripped off birdies on five of the last seven holes. Garcia birdied the last four. Neither player was satisfied with the halve and both players deserved to win, but golf was the big winner here.
Moore’s clinching two-putt
He was the last man on the team, picked late last Sunday night. He told reporters he didn’t like his chances in the weeks before captain Davis Love III’s final selection. But he received the call and validated it with a 2-1 record. It appeared he was headed for defeat in the seventh match of Sunday’s singles against European stalwart Lee Westwood. Two-down with three to play, Moore saw his teammates in the gallery and decided to win for them. He eagled the par-5 No. 16, won 17 with a birdie, and stood over a 15-foot putt on the final green needing only two putts to bring the Cup to the U.S. for the first time since 2008. The only ‘mistake’ Moore made was forgetting to keep the ball he used. But Love III picked the ball up amid the chaos of celebration. Later, when offered it back, Moore told the captain who showed confidence in him to keep it.
The Americans drank champagne on the Hazeltine balcony. They sprayed it down their throats, on fans, caddies and wives. They goofed off amid the media’s questions in a post-round press conference that ranged from serious to silly. Dustin Johnson lowered Ryan Moore’s chair and screamed “Fore Left!” as a champagne cork flew away. Phil Mickelson poked fun at himself. Tiger Woods tried to dodge a question about being team captain someday. The scene was light and loose, miles away from the gloom of Gleneagles or the pall over Medinah. These 12 golfers and six leaders deserved such celebration and adulation.
GALLERY: U.S. celebrates the win