MEDINAH, Ill. — Dustin Johnson stopped the bleeding temporarily, but he couldn’t do anything about the United States’ hemorrhaging that followed his match in the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club.
Johnson was the sixth U.S. player to tee off in Sunday’s 12 singles matches and recorded the first U.S. victory, a 3 and 2 win over Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium in a battle of long hitters.
The U.S. was only able to muster another 2 1/2 points in the other 11 matches and Europe maintained its grip on the Ryder Cup.
Johnson’s victory capped a 3-0 showing in his second Ryder Cup – he won a pair of four-ball matches with partner Matt Kuchar in the first two days – after going 1-3 in his 2010 Cup debut at Celtic Manor in Wales.
“Being here with the home fans definitely makes a difference,” Johnson said. “For me to come out and play like I did this week, I’m definitely proud of myself and I’m excited to be on the team. I wanted to make captain [Davis] Love look good for picking me, too.”
Johnson birdied the first hole Sunday with a close approach to go 1 up, double bogeyed the par-5 fifth to fall back to all square, and made a pair of birdies on the par-5 fifth and par-4 sixth to go 1 up.
With Colsaerts within tap-in range for a birdie on the fifth, Johnson rolled in a 12-footer, and he drained a 50-foot bomb on the sixth to gain the advantage in the match. The players exchanged birdies on the par-5 seventh and a Colsaerts birdie on the ninth tied the match.
Colsaerts bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes to fall two down but tied the match again with Johnson bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes. A long iron to 12 feet on the par-4 14th led to a birdie and 1 up lead for Johnson.
Neither player challenged the drivable par-4 15th green and hit approaches between 15 and 18 feet. Johnson drained his putt and followed it with an emphatic uppercut, and Colsaerts missed his putt.
“That putt on 15 was huge,” Johnson said. “That pin, we looked at it all week, for those left pins if they put them there it’s just not a good idea to go for it. For me it wasn’t because I’m going to hit it in that left bunker probably 80 percent of the time, and it’s not good to that pin.”
Colsaerts said he didn’t consider going for the green off the tee, either.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I was just one down and it’s quite a tough flag, so hit it in the fairway and give yourself a second shot. We both gave ourselves very good birdie chances and he made his and I didn’t.”
The match ended when Colsaerts bogeyed the par-4 16th hole.
Johnson went undefeated this week without caddie Bobby Brown, who Johnson said has a herniated disk in his lower back. He played with Love’s regular caddie, Jeff Weber. “Weber’s great,” Johnson said. “We had a good time this week and a lot of fun out there, and he did a great job for me.”
New to the game
Johnson is one of the few Americans who doesn’t shoulder some blame for the team’s collapse, but the team’s four rookies were among the team’s best players all week.
Though Ryder Cup rookies Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner went 1-3 in Sunday’s matches – Dufner recorded a 2 up win over Peter Hanson – they went a combined 9-6-0 over the three days.
Bradley and Dufner were 3-1-0, Simpson was 2-2-0 and Snedeker was 1-2-0.
Knowing the Europeans would top load its singles lineup Sunday, U.S. captain Davis Love III still chose to put three of his four rookies in three of the first five spots.
“This is a new generation of guys,” Tiger Woods said. “The guys I grew up with are on the senior tour, so it’s nice to have a new, young generation of guys, and they are all playing well.”
The cupboard of youth is hardly bare after the rookies. Three other U.S. players – Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar – played in just their second Ryder Cups.
Those seven players may be the core of U.S. Ryder Cup teams for the next decade or so, though other young talents including Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Nick Watney could also be heard from.
“There are a lot of good guys,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a great team this year but we’re really deep so I’d say there are at least five more guys you have to consider if you’re looking at that term as the core. There are a lot of good young players and a lot of good young players that didn’t make the team. . . . So we could go five or six more in the lineup and really have a solid team.”
Change of fortunes
The Ryder Cup giveth, and the Ryder Cup can taketh away.
Colsaerts made the greatest debut in Ryder Cup history when he made eight birdies and an eagle and single-handedly defeated Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in his first ever match in Friday afternoon’s four-ball competition.
His partner, Lee Westwood, didn’t make a single birdie and it was Europe’s only point in the session.
But he hit his tee shot into water on 17th hole in Saturday foursomes to essentially end his match with partner Sergio Garcia in a 2 and 1 loss to Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. Saturday afternoon he had a 15-foot putt to halve a four-ball match on the 18th hole after his approach landed a few inches from the hole and spun back, but he missed and lost the match with partner Paul Lawrie 1 up to Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
And on Sunday, he played 1-over par in his 3 and 2 loss to Johnson.
“I probably used a lot of fuel on that first day to produce such a nice debut, then I didn’t really putt as good in my next two or three matches, that’s why I wasn’t able to deliver a few more points,” Colsaerts said.
Where’s No. 1?
Rory McIlroy, the top-ranked player in the world, arrived at Medinah about 15 minutes before his tee time.
He saw his tee time in Eastern time rather than the local Central time, so he thought he teed off at 12:25 p.m. rather than the actual 11:25 a.m. He was raced to the course in the front seat of a police car.
“At least I wasn’t in the back,” McIlroy joked. “But I was in a police car and we got here as fast as we could.”
McIlroy practiced putting for a few minutes before his opening tee shot, which was along gallery ropes. It didn’t take him long to warm up, however, as he birdied holes 4, 5 and 6 to jump out to a 2 up lead over Bradley and won the match 2 and 1.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.