With a performance characterised by precision, composure and quality, Europe’s singles victories sealed a 161/2 – 111/2 lead to win the 2014 Ryder Cup. World number one Rory McIlroy led the charge with an emphatic 5&4 win over Rickie Fowler, while colleagues Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell followed suit. The honour of ending the contest fell to Wales’ Jamie Donaldson, whose inch-perfect effort on the 15th sealed Europe’s five-point margin of victory at Scotland’s historic Gleneagles.
Europe’s win was clearly built on an impressive comeback on day one. The US took the early impetus with a 21/2 – 11/2 in the fourballs, only to see Europe’s resolve in action as they claimed a resounding 31/2 – 1/2 win in the foursomes. From then on the results were more even, with both sides taking wins. It was Europe, however, who finished the second day doubling their lead, taking day one’s 5-3 advantage to 10-6. Day three’s singles events clinched the win for Europe, who take home their eight Ryder Cup victory in ten tournaments and extend the unbeaten run on home soil begun in 1993.
Among the foursomes pairings emerged a display of sporting professionalism and enduring friendship. Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell had partnered one another for the last two Ryder Cups, however going into the weekends tournament McDowell conceded that the two golfers were better off paired separately. McIlroy and McDowell had often stated that their relationship was one to akin to that between brothers, McDowell the elder imparting the wisdom gained through experience and McIlroy the younger, learning from the then US Open champion.
In recent years, however, McIlroy has begun to overshadow McDowell, reaching number one in the world rankings as he became the first European to win three different majors and only the third player (after the esteemed figures of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods) to win three majors before the age of 25. As McDowell found it increasingly challenging to keep up with McIlroy, particularly as McIlroy likes to lead off from the tee and McDowell often found himself overcompensating to reach the same driving distances, to the detriment of his own game. Despite the finishing of the partnership McDowell stated he and McIlroy are “better friends than ever”, and the relationship between the two friends remains free of any animosity over the decision.
McDowell, who demonstrated in his relationship with McIlroy how he prefers to be the elder statesman of his pairings and excels in developing the games of up-and-comers, spoke in the lead-up to the first day of his satisfaction with partnering with Ryder Cup debutant Victor Dubuisson, claiming he would enjoy shepherding the Frenchman, who might benefit from the experience and fortitude of McDowell in the same manner as McIlroy. He certainly appeared to during the Cup, putting in an impressive performance that McDowell stated might help Dubuisson “come out of his shell” as a player. Evidently relishing how “the captain asked [him] to be a leader this week”, McDowell’s calming influence appeared to pay dividends as Dubuisson played his part in Europe’s victory. At his most comfortable and satisfied when aiding the development of his colleagues, McDowell stated that “whatever small part I’ve played in kind of getting him ready this weekend, I’m proud of that part.”
As eyes turn to the next Ryder Cup in two years time, enthused Europe fans might feel confident in the raft of young golfers available. The likes of McIlroy, whose evident talent is beginning to be paired with the consistency that has at times eluded him, Dubuisson and Kaymer, who at 29 is reaching his peak, have the potential to feature for Europe for years to come. The USA, meanwhile, may take similar confidence in youth from the winning pairing of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed who, at 21 and 24 respectively, have a combined age just one year older than the competitions youngest ever pairing. With a combination of older, experienced figures and the emerging youth, the Ryder Cup can look forward to years of high quality golf to come.
What steps might both Europe and the USA take to challenge for the next Ryder Cup?