Donaldson’s classy iron sinks USA as players heap praise on captain McGinley
ECSTATIC Welsh rookie Jamie Donaldson acknowledged he produced the shot of a lifetime to ensure Europe steamrolled the United States 16½-11 ½ and secured a hat-trick of Ryder Cup successes at Gleneagles yesterday.
The 38-year-old struck an exquisite approach shot to the 15th green to seal a 4&3 victory over Keegan Bradley to spark jubilant scenes as Europe reached the 14½ points required to retain the trophy.
While the American inquest began immediately with Phil Mickelson publicly chastising the tactics of veteran captain Tom Watson, Donaldson – who only clinched an automatic place in Paul McGinley’s squad with victory in the Czech Masters last month – was left to reflect on his final flourish.
“I played the wedge shot of my life to close the game out,” said Donaldson. “I was just trying not to spend too much time looking at the scoreboard and just concentrate on my match.
“It’s hard to describe how good the Ryder Cup is. There’s nothing else quite like it in golf, it’s a total one-off.”
Trailing 10-6 heading into the final day, the United States needed to replicate a performance akin to Europe’s 2012 Miracle of Medinah in order to avoid an eighth loss from the last 10 biennial contests and snatch a first victory on European soil since 1993.
But early successes for Ulster duo Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, with 2&1 and 5&4 victories against Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler respectively, laid the foundations for Europe’s overall show of strength.
US Open champion Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia also enjoyed singles joy while Justin Rose was a major destructive force and finished as the tournament’s leading points scorer with a halved match against Hunter Mahan taking his tally to four.
Europe did not have it all their own way and at one stage yesterday the United States were ahead in six singles matches with rookie Patrick Reed leading the fightback on the course, with victory over Henrik Stenson, as well as off it by taunting the crowd after his birdie putt on the seventh.
World No1 McIlroy, however, struck back and cancelled out Reed’s win with success against Fowler and was quick to point to the entrenched template for victory delivered by McGinley.
“I can’t say enough about the captain, Paul has been absolutely immense this week,” he said. “He’s left no stone unturned and has given it a lot of thought over the last two years.”
Spain’s Garcia, who received criticism from Sir Nick Faldo for his role in the 2008 Ryder Cup defeat at Valhalla, echoed McIlroy’s sentiments and pointed to the more forward-thinking approach adopted by Irishman McGinley.
“He has been so methodical,” he said. “Every single aspect he needed to touch on, he did. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great captains, Paul did things differently but with great style. He was a little bit more of a modern captain.”
Such generosity was not evident in the opposing camp, with five-time Major champion Mickelson quick to stick the knife into Watson and back American calls for Paul Azinger, the mastermind of Valhalla, to return.
“We had a great formula in 2008 and I don’t know why we strayed, I don’t know why we don’t go back,” said Mickelson. “I’m looking back on what gave us the most success and Paul got everybody invested in the process and he also had a great game plan for us. Those two things helped us to bring out our best golf.”
HOW RYDER CUP UNFOLDED, SESSION BY SESSION
The United States surged into a 2½-1½ lead after the morning’s fourballs despite Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson securing Europe’s first point with a convincing 5&4 victory over Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson in the opening match. US debutant Jimmy Walker holed a birdie on the final green as he and Rickie Fowler halved with Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer before American rookie pair Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed won the third match 5&4 against Ian Poulter and Ryder Cup debutant Stephen Gallacher. Phil Mickelson’s birdie on the 18th ensured Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy were edged out by the five-time Major winner and wildcard pick Keegan Bradley.
SCORE: EUROPE 1½-2½ USA
Europe came to the fore during Friday’s foursomes and established a 5-3 lead to head into day two at Gleneagles in the ascendency. England’s Lee Westwood joined forces with Jamie Donaldson to beat Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar by two holes to secure Europe’s first foursomes point, while Rose and Stenson followed up their fourballs success with a 2&1 win over Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson. World No1 McIlroy and Spain’s Garcia recovered from their disappointing performance in the fourballs to post a crucial half point on the final hole against Fowler and Walker as Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson put an end to Mickelson and Bradley’s four-match winning streak by snaring a 3&2 victory.
SCORE: EUROPE 5–3 USA
The Americans trailed Europe by just a point at the end of Saturday’s fourballs after taking 2½ from the third session. The hosts drew first blood as Rose and Stenson claimed their third point from as many matches after recording 10 birdies in succession to prevail 3&2 against Watson and Matt Kuchar. The United States responded in the second match as Furyk and Mahan dispatched Westwood and Donaldson 4&3 while the rookie pairing of Spieth and Reed again produced with a convincing 5&3 victory over Bjorn and Kaymer. Walker and Fowler appeared on course to level the contest before McIlroy and Poulter hit back with a half-point in the final game to ensure Europe led 6½- 5½.
SCORE: EUROPE 6½–5 ½
In a reverse of fortunes, Europe boasted a 10-6 advantage heading into Sunday’s singles after a one-sided foursomes on Saturday, winning the session 3½-½ to leave them needing just four and a half points to retain the Ryder Cup outright. Westwood and Welsh rookie Donaldson secured their second foursomes point thanks to a 2&1 victory over Johnson and Kuchar. McDowell and Frenchman Dubuisson continued their own foursomes form with a 5&4 win against Walker and Fowler as Northern Irishman McIlroy and Garcia completed Europe’s third win of the afternoon by seeing off Furyk and Mahan 3&2. Reed and Spieth led for much of their clash only for Kaymer’s bunker shot to set up Rose to birdie the last and ensure honours were shared with a half point.
SCORE: EUROPE 10–6 USA
MCDOWELL EUROPE WIN 2&1 SPIETH
STENSON USA WIN 1UP REED
MCILROY EUROPE WIN 5&4 FOWLER
ROSE ALL SQUARE MAHAN
GALLACHER USA WIN 3&1 MICKELSON
KAYMER EUROPE WIN 4&2 WATSON
BJORN USA WIN 4&3 KUCHAR
GARCIA EUROPE WIN 1UP FURYK
POULTER ALL SQUARE SIMPSON
DONALDSON EUROPE WIN 4&3 BRADLEY
WESTWOOD USA WIN 3&2 WALKER
DUBUISSON ALL SQUARE JOHNSON
EUROPE 16½ USA 11½