CHAMPIONS
Champions Update: Match-Play Chops Help Win Ryder Cup October 3, 2016 | FAR HILLS, N.J. By Scott Lipsky, USGA

Ryan Moore (left), a three-time USGA champion, defeated Lee Westwood to earn the clinching point for the USA. (PGA of America/Montana Pritchard)

The USA convincingly reclaimed custody of the Ryder Cup on Sunday, securing a 17-11 victory over Europe at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. As 24 of the world’s best golfers turned their attention to match play for the three-day competition, five members of the American squad successfully drew on their USGA amateur championship experience to play a crucial role in the team’s victory.

Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Brandt Snedeker and Jordan Spieth all earned national championships by making their way through a match-play bracket. Though their USGA victories were years or, in some cases, decades earlier, their match-play savvy was on full display throughout the week, with the quintet combining to score 11 points for the USA on the strength of a 10-6-2 overall record.

Snedeker, the 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, was a perfect 3-0 at Hazeltine, teaming up with Brooks Koepka to win one match each on Friday and Saturday before winning his singles match on Sunday, 3 and 1, over Andy Sullivan.

Snedeker’s U.S. Amateur Public Links victory was sandwiched by those of Moore’s, who won the title in 2002 and 2004. Moore, who also won the 2004 U.S. Amateur, scored the clinching point for the Americans on Sunday when he closed out Lee Westwood, 1 up, by rallying to win the last three holes in their match.

Moore, who played on the USA Walker Cup Team in 2003 but had never previously competed in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, was asked after his victory why he has been so successful in match play over the years.

“I don't know. [There is] something simple about it. You are just trying to beat one guy,” said Moore, who was 2-1 during the week. “When I went 2 down with 3 to go, I didn't want to let my team down. I wanted to do everything I could and try to hit a couple great shots coming in.”

U.S. Amateur champions Mickelson (1990) and Kuchar (1997) teamed up during the Saturday afternoon Four-Ball session to defeat 2014 U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia. Kuchar tallied a 2-2 record for the week, while Mickelson, playing for the USA for a record 11th time, was 2-1-1 at Hazeltine.

Spieth, who won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2009 and 2011 before embarking on a professional career that, to this point, has already included victories in the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open, was 2-2-1 in his five matches during the weekend.

However, one USGA amateur champion didn’t fare as well as the others – Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 2013 U.S. Amateur champion who went 0-2 for team Europe in his Ryder Cup debut. It could have simply been an off week for the 22-year-old from England, or perhaps the enthusiastic home crowd boosted the Americans in a format where momentum and emotion play a larger role. In any case, it’s a good bet that Fitzpatrick will be heard from in future Ryder Cups.

There were a total of 10 USGA champions competing in The Ryder Cup. The five American amateur champions were joined by Dustin Johnson, who claimed the U.S. Open in June at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. The European contingency was made up of Kaymer, 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, and Fitzpatrick.

Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms at the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org

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