Americans lose mental edge in Ryder Cup blowout

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By PATRICK LEARY
College Contributor Network

Every once in a while during the 2014 Ryder Cup, the American team showed signs of life.

In both fourball sessions, the Americans beat the Europeans 2.5 to 1.5 and mostly dominated. On Sunday, a quick start to singles play gave the Americans hope for a Brookline-esque comeback.

However, on all three occasions, the superior talent, confidence and mentality of the Europeans, buoyed by an incredible home field advantage, led to a turnaround and, eventually, a 16.5-11.5 victory.

While the alternate shot format certainly favored the less error-prone European squad, the Americans appeared to lose their mental edge when adverse situations arose, a problem that plagued them at Medinah in 2012. Much like that epic collapse two years ago, all momentum developed by the Americans evaporated when the format shifted or shots started slipping away.

On both Friday and Saturday, when Team USA gained the aforementioned one-point lead in morning fourballs, the Europeans smacked them 3.5 to .5 in the afternoon foursomes. Players like Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson made big shot after big shot and beat the Americans into submission.

There were a few positives for the American team. By all accounts, the three American rookies, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker, played exceptionally well in their first appearances.

Reed and Spieth went nuts in their two four-ball matches, winning 5 & 4 and 5 & 3, and they halved the only foursomes match they played, against Rose and US Open champ Martin Kaymer. Reed also beat Henrik Stenson 1Up on Sunday, while Spieth wilted late after dominating McDowell early in his 2 & 1 loss. Walker halved his first three matches, lost his fourth and then pulled off an impressive singles victory over Lee Westwood.

But the root of the American problem started with Walker's partner, Rickie Fowler. Fowler, who placed in the top five in every major this year, was supposed to be a young leader for Team USA. Instead, he failed to win a single match outright and capped off his rough weekend with a drubbing at the hands of world No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

Fowler was just the tip of the iceberg for the Americans. Captains picks Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson combined to go 2-5-2. Bubba Watson, one of the most talented Americans, lost all three of his matches, including Team USA's only two defeats in fourball. Jim Furyk showed his age yet again, going 1-3.

Perhaps the moment that best summarized the American performance came at hole No. 18 on Sunday, when Mahan needed only to match Rose with an up-and-down to win a crucial full point for the Americans. After Rose put his shot within five feet for par, Mahan skied his chip over the green and down the ridge on the other side. Mahan's confidence was completely gone, and Jamie Donaldson clinched the European victory just half an hour later.

The Americans will have a better chance to end Europe's winning streak at Hazeltine in 2016, when their young guns will have more experience and the crowd will be behind them. But with moments like Mahan's chip and the collapse at Medinah on their minds, they might not have the mental edge to finish the job.


Patrick Leary is a senior at Marquette University. He thinks Felix Hernandez is the best pitcher on God's green earth. Follow him on Twitter: @patrickkleary
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