Why the 2016 Ryder Cup was special

‘I was able to clean up the card’ says Woods after shooting a 5-under 67 in the BMW championship third round

The USA won back the Ryder Cup after comprehensively beating Europe 17-11 at Hazeltine National Golf Club and here we take a look at why this year’s competition was another fantastic instalment of one of sport’s greatest events.

Davis Love III’s USA team ultimately out-putted Darren Clarke’s European side to snatch back the Ryder Cup, a trophy they have not held since 2008.

Whoever you were supporting, there can be little doubt that the 2016 Ryder Cup was unique in a number of ways and just as good a spectacle as any that has come before.

This is what Hazeltine will be remembered for.

The golf

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First and foremost, the Ryder Cup is a golf tournament. And boy were we treated to some sparkling play from both sets of players in Minnesota this weekend.

For Europe, the big-hitting Thomas Pieters was sublime. With four wins from his five matches, he has become the most successful European rookie of all-time, and the highest scoring rookie on either side since Larry Nelson in 1979. The Belgian was also the highest scoring individual player of the week.

For the USA, Patrick Reed was “Captain America” as Jordan Spieth so succinctly put it. He wowed everyone with his ability to make clutch putt after clutch putt and his solid approach play was a joy to behold. His singles duel with Rory McIlroy was a classic and will live long in the memory.

All in all, seven eagles and a staggering 282 birdies were made on the weekend. Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson were incredible in their singles match, racking up 19 gains between them.

The golf was hot.

The result

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The result was a fair one and you cannot ask for anything more from a sporting contest than for the best team to win.

Clarke admitted that his group were outplayed.

The USA were simply superior golfers than their European counterparts. Heading into the Ryder Cup, the average world ranking of the USA’s team was 16, while Europe’s average world ranking was 28.

Over the 28 matches played, the United States won 117 holes, while Europe won just 104.

The crowds

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Despite Danny Willett saying that his brother Peter was correct in his pre-Ryder Cup criticism of American supporters, the crowds were brilliant at Hazeltine.

Yes, of course there were a few who overstepped the line, but unfortunately in any sporting event there always are.

For the most part, the galleries were enormous, loud, fun and occasionally hostile but that is what this tournament is about.

That first tee box on all three days was quite something.

Lets keep the European players’ condemnation of the American crowds in perspective – in many other sports there are far more serious crowd offences than opposition players not being applauded when they drain a putt or the odd cheer when an opposition player sprays his ball out of bounds.

The only question that needs to be asked is whether they detracted from or added to the Ryder Cup. We feel that does not warrant an answer.

The sportsmanship

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If the European players felt the patriotic American crowds were not sporting, there can surely be no complaints over the spirit in which the matches were played.

After doing something spectacular on the greens, the Americans were brilliant in calming the crowds down and affording the European players the opportunity to putt in silence.

At the completion of almost all matches, there appeared to be sincere words exchanged between both sets of players.

When the USA won the Ryder Cup, both captains embraced each other and the Europeans were quick to congratulate the Americans.

However, the biggest act of sportsmanship was surely Jordan Spieth opting to play in the singles despite being injured.

He damaged his hand on Saturday and would have been well within his rights to withdraw, such was the extent of the injury.

That would have meant that Europe would have had one less opportunity to make ground on the USA as one of the matches would have been halved by default.

Spieth opted to tough it out though. Visibly affected by the injury, he lost his singles match to Henrik Stenson but surely won the respect of many by playing in the first place.

The emotion

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The Ryder Cup is watched by so many people who don’t normally watch golf because of the emotion the event is able to extract from players and fans alike.

Non-golfers cannot connect with the sport on a technical level. However, they certainly can connect on an emotional level and there was no shortage of passion and fire shown from anyone. We have already alluded to what the American crowds brought to the table but the players wore their hearts on their sleeves too.

McIlroy was a man possessed at Hazeltine. Usually calmness personified, he was confrontational and demonstrative this weekend.

Brandt Snedeker seemed to burst blood vessels every time he won a hole, so animated was he.

Reed was Captain America.

The Spanish combination of Sergio Garcia and Rafael Cabrera-Bello combined charm and inspiration in the most magnificent of motivating cocktails.

All the players put themselves out there. The Europeans got stung, the Americans got stoked.

One team always lifts the Ryder Cup and the Ryder Cup always delivers.

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