As 46-year-olds go, Phil Mickelson, throwing a 10-birdie round of 63 at Sergio Garcia and only getting a half-point out of it surely rivaled Jack Nicklaus's 1986 Masters win as one of the best-ever performances by a golfer his age. United States' Patrick Reed reacts after winning the 12th hole during a singles match at the Ryder Cup golf tournament Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
A week later, he was celebrating a 1-up victory over Lee Westwood that clinched the cup.
"When put in the right environment, the USA team brought out some incredible golf", Mickelson said. "And we're bringing back the Ryder Cup because of it". This victory began two years ago in Scotland, when Phil Mickelson publicly criticized USA captain Tom Watson and a process that he felt put the Americans in position to fail far too often.
1636 - After victories for Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson over Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood respectively, Martin Kaymer defeats Matt Kuchar by one hole to make the final score 17-11. That U.S. team is considered the best team ever assembled with 11 major champions. Ryan Moore delivered the final point in this American masterpiece Sunday at the Ryder Cup.
The Americans lost for the third straight time in 2014 at Gleneagles, and it was team divided over everything from how the captain was selected to how the team should be built.
The Ryder Cup Task Force was dismantled after Love was named captain for the second time, though Mickelson and Tiger Woods remain on a committee for the next Ryder Cup in 2018 in France.
US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III must have been fearing a collapse of Medinah-esque proportions as a 4-0 advantage held early Friday dissolved into 6½ - 6½ tie as dusk began to settle at Hazeltine Saturday. "They had a lot of pressure on them for the last two years", Love said. "I have never seen a team come together as a family like this".
"I'm super proud of them", Love said. "It was a great team effort". Reed squared the match by driving the fifth green to 8 feet for eagle, and he kept the tee until the 18th.
Reed then matched McIlroy by pouring in his 20-foot birdie putt to an explosive celebration by the crowd, and wagged his finger at McIlroy and waved his arms to whoop up even louder cheers. They bumped fists and patted each other on the back, both 5 under through eight holes.
Their standard of gold dipped after that, perhaps because they spent so much energy pumping fists, and Reed finally took his first lead when McIlroy bogeyed the 12th hole. Reed chipped across the par-3 17th green and lost the hole with a bogey, but sank a five-foot birdie putt on 18 to win.
But they were nearly denied that fourth match, when Reed made seven birdies and an eagle on his own ball - arguably his finest moment amid a handful of great ones here.
Among the lone bright spots for Europe was Thomas Pieters, the Belgian rookie who had the best debut of any European rookie by going 4-1.
This year's Open victor Henrik Stenson beat two-time major victor, the 23-year-old Jordan Spieth 3 and 2 and 24-year-old Belgian rising talent Thomas Pieters beat J.B. Holmes by the same margin. By then, it was ominous. McIlroy is Europe's unquestioned leader, a three-time major victor who is ranked third in the world and one of the best drivers of the ball in golf.
The US victory charge came after some titanic early matches in which Europe, who front-loaded their best players at the top of the order, closed the gap to one point after entering the deciding 12 singles matches trailing by three.
The 24-year-old Pieters set a European rookie record by registering four points and became the first Ryder debutant since 1999 to play in all five sessions.
"Hopefully there's a change in the Ryder Cup", Spieth said.