U.S. up to the Ryder Cup task at Hazeltine
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - In more ways than one, the United States proved up to the task as their meticulous preparations and renewed team spirit helped them beat Europe to clinch the Ryder Cup on Sunday for the first time since 2008.
With Cup veteran Phil Mickelson playing a pivotal role as on-course leader, Patrick Reed injecting passion and inspired golf into the mix and skipper Davis Love III ensuring that every player had a vested interest in the outcome, the U.S. won 17-11.
The balance of power in the biennial team competition shifted as the Americans avoided what would have been a damaging fourth defeat in a row, and it was underpinned by the work of an 11-man task force set up after their heavy loss in 2014.
Following Europe's victory by 16-1/2 points to 11-1/2 at Gleaneagles in Scotland, the PGA of America established a task force, including eight current and former players, to identify how the U.S. could compete more successfully.
The number of automatic qualifiers was reduced from nine to eight to boost the number of captain's picks to four, with the final wildcard choice being announced just five days before the start of the Ryder Cup.
There was also a return to the successful system adopted by 2008 winning U.S. captain Paul Azinger, who wanted his players to be fully engaged in the entire process and relied on the input of the automatic qualifiers for his wildcard selections.
"Just because we got kicked around for so long, you keep losing, you feel like you've got to do something different," said Love, who was brought back by the task force for a second stint as captain.
Love had guided the U.S. to a 10-6 lead heading into the final day in 2012 but the team lost by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2 in what is known to European fans as the "Miracle at Medinah." Continued...