Ryder Cup back in US hands after six years

US grabbed back the Ryder Cup from Europe defeating the holders 16.5-11.5 with a superb display of matchplay mastery for their biggest win in 27 years.

updated: September 22, 2008 16:30 IST
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Louisville, Kentucky:

The United States grabbed back the Ryder Cup from Europe on Sunday defeating the holders 16.5-11.5 with a superb display of matchplay mastery for their biggest win in 27 years.

After grinding out a 9-7 lead in two gripping days of foursomes and fourballs, the US hotshots, spearheaded by exciting rookie Anthony Kim, let loose in the closing 12 singles gleefully bagging the extra 5.5 points they required for outright victory.

The Americans took the singles 7.5-4.5.

Needing seven points to force a tie and retain the trophy they had held since 2002, Europe were never really in the hunt, falling behind early and eventually wilting in the face of a barrage of US birdies.

The winning point came when rock-solid Jim Furyk defeated Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez two and 1 at the 17th in the eighth game out, the Spaniard conceding his opponent's short par putt.

The result was a ringing endorsement for US skipper Paul Azinger who has spent the last two years master-minding the campaign to stop the rampant Europeans winning the trophy for a fourth straight time.

And it will bring an avalanche of criticism down on the head of his European counterpart Nick Faldo, who has had a rocky ride at Valhalla Golf Club all week as he struggled to impose his leadership qualities.

"I poured my heart and soul into this for two years," Azinger said. "My players poured their heart and soul into it for a week. They deserve it. They played great."

Faldo claimed it been a desperately close contest despite the margin of victory.

"We are talking fractions," he said. "The games, the quality of the golf.

"We have come up short, but not in pride and spirit."

Azinger chose the option of sending out his big guns early on in the singles and it paid immediate dividends as 23-year-old Californian Kim opened with four straight threes to stun Europe's off-colour star turn Sergio Garcia.

When the Spaniard went in the water with his approach at the seventh to go three down he cut a disconsolate figure, and that was a huge symbolic blow to the Europeans who look to Garcia for spark and inspiration.

US red soon dominated European blue on the leaderboard and the 40,000 fans assembled for the occasion in the late summer sunshine roared their approval. The sing-songs from the European fans fell silent.

Faldo had taken the risk of leaving his top-ranking players till last hoping that the match would still be alive by the time they could make their presence felt, but his plans were soon in tatters.

Kim duly opened the US account by putting Garcia to the sword 5 and 4 at the 14th punching the air in delight as the seven-footer for the half point he needed plunged into the hole.

Giant Swede Robert Karlsson then got one back for Europe with a comprehensive 5 and 3 win over Justin Leonard and Justin Rose followed shortly after with a surprisingly easy 3 and 2 win over top American Phil Mickelson.

But after Hunter Mahan and Paul Casey had halved their tie, local hero Kenny Perry and crowd favourite Boo Weekley brought home two vital points for the United States in quick succession.

Both won easily, Perry 3 and 2 over Henrik Stenson and Weekley 4 and 2 over rookie Oliver Wilson.

That left the Americans needing just two points and the first of those came when big-hitting JB Holmes finished off Dane Soren Hansen 2 and 1.

The spotlight then switched to Furyk, who had led Jimenez from the first hole and who was two up at the 17th.

Both were on the green in two. Furyk hit his birdie putt stone dead and when Jimenez failed to sink his long putt he shook the American's hand and conceded sparking off American victory celebrations.

"It feels great," Furyk said.

"I've been on the other side when Paul McGinley won it for Europe (2002). I feel bad about Miguel because he's a class act and I think the world about him and his game.

"But I feel great for my team-mates. Paul (Azinger) shook things up, we had a lot of young talent and that made the difference."

In the absence of Tiger Woods, the Americans got big performances out of senior players Mickelson and Furyk, while youngsters Kim and Mahan brought fire and brashness.

In contrast Faldo's leading lights Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood all struggled, and his only consolation was in the superb form of controversial wildcard pick Ian Poulter who finished the competition's top scorer with four points out of five.

Harrington, who won back-to-back majors in the space of three weeks in the summer admitted that he had struggled with form and physical and mental fitness.

"Quite honestly I can't wait for the season to be finished," he said."

The US win is only their second in the last seven outings and will revive the debate about whether the world's best golfer Woods is a help or a hindrance to the national team.

Despondent Europe will immediately start the hunt for a new captain and aim to regain the trophy when it is next played for at Celtic Manor in Wales in two years time.