By Ann Liguori
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CHASKA, Minn. (WFAN) — The spirit of the Ryder Cup lives on.
It was an impressive display of teamwork and intensity from both teams on the course at Hazeltine National Golf Club, but the U.S. proved to be the dominant side, owning Sunday’s singles matches (7-4-1) on its way to capturing its first Ryder Cup since 2008.
The 17-11 victory over Europe might have been the most memorable battle of all-time.
Certainly, Patrick Reed versus Rory McIlroy lived up to the hype. They were the first to go out in the singles matches. Their sheer intensity and passion revealed itself on Friday and Saturday, even more than previous Ryder Cups (McIlroy was making his fourth appearance; Reed his second).
Both led their teams this weekend. Reed went 3-1-1 record, earning 3 1/2 points, while McIlroy won three of his five matches.
But their fierce competitiveness was off the charts during Sunday’s match, taking their emotions to a new level. It quickly became must-see television.
McIlroy struck first with a birdie on the third. Reed’s eagle on the par-4, 5th, brought their match back to all-square. But the fun really started on No. 6. Both players made birdie, but after Reed sank his putt he bowed to the crowd and then wagged his finger, mocking McIlroy, who had bowed to the crowd twice after winning an earlier match.
They then each birdied the 7th, but this time it was McIlroy with the grandstanding. After making his putt, the Northern Irish superstar put his finger to his lips to silence the crowd.
On No. 8, Rory drained a 60-foot bomb for birdie and was more amped-up than ever, lipping to the crowd, “I can’t hear you!” Then, as if scripted in a made-for-TV special, Reed answered back with a 35-footer for a birdie of his own and pointed his finger at McIlroy. It had turned into the Patrick and Rory show, very compelling theater.
Reed then slapped his hand on McIlroy’s back, showing all who were watching that their mocking of each other was indeed in good fun.
McIlroy bogeyed the 12th, and Reed parred to go 1-up. The 26-year-old from Texas never lost the lead from there. He went up two with a birdie on the 16th, but quickly gave it back with a bogey on 17. Reed righted the ship on the final hole, responding with a birdie to win the match and send the Americans on their way.
McIlroy was later asked about the intensity on the course.
“We were congratulating each other after playing some great shots. It was all played in the right spirit, which was great,” McIlroy said. “I think that’s the most important thing. We mocked each other a little bit and whatever, (but) at the same time it was all in good fun. No problems with Patrick Reed at all. He has been immense this week!”
“We play golf with these guys every single week. To be a part of the Ryder Cup, I don’t look at it as just the Ryder Cup family and the U.S. team. I consider everybody in the Ryder Cup, whether it’s European side, captains, vice captains, U.S. side … it’s a big Ryder Cup family. We want everyone to play well. We want to beat them at their best; they want to beat us at our best,” Reed said.
Arnold Palmer would have been proud. Both teams dedicated this Ryder Cup to Palmer, who passed away the night before Ryder Cup week began. In fact, when Palmer’s ashes were scattered in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, last week, on the course where he grew up playing, a rainbow appeared.
That rainbow seemed to remain in the hearts of each player this week, as all involved displayed class, intensity, sportsmanship and graciousness, both in victory and defeat.
It was great to see.
Palmer, Hazeltine, and all of golf should be proud.
Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori