AUCHTERARDER, Scotland — After narrow victories each of the past two Ryder Cup, the Europeans left little to chance Sunday at Gleneagles, earning 3 ½ points early to dash any hopes of an American comeback and retain the cup.
Leading 10-6 – the same margin it erased during a historic comeback two years ago – Europe put blue on the board early with impressive victories by Graeme McDowell (a come-from-behind 2-and-1 win over Jordan Spieth), Rory McIlroy (a 5-and-4 thrashing of Rickie Fowler) and Martin Kaymer (a thorough 4-and-2 win over Bubba Watson).
The Europeans had to wait a little longer for the decisive point, but it was secured by rookie Jamie Donaldson, who stiffed his approach on 15 to defeat Keegan Bradley, 4 and 3.
Europe has now won three Ryder Cups in a row, and eight of the past 10.
Patrick Reed, who riled up the European crowd with his demonstrative reactions, was the leading points-earner for the American side, winning his singles match, 1 up, over Henrik Stenson to improve to 3-0-1 in his Ryder Cup debut. Before the overall match was decided, the Americans also received full points from Phil Mickelson, who sat out both sessions Saturday for the first time in his career, and Matt Kuchar, who was 0-3 heading into singles.
In the end, two outcomes loomed large for the Americans: Spieth had a 3-up lead at the turn against McDowell before losing five holes in a six-hole stretch, while Mahan bungled a pitch shot on the 18th hole to squander an opportunity for a crucial full point.
The PGA of America broke the mold by bringing back Tom Watson, 65, but he made several questionable decisions – particularly the handling of a red-hot rookie pairing (Spieth and Reed), a worn-out duo (Fowler and Jimmy Walker) and a team leader (Mickelson) – and ultimately the Americans endured the same fate. When the U.S. team heads to France in 2018, it will be a quarter-century removed from its last victory on foreign soil.