MEDINAH, Ill. – Brandt Snedeker said often in the days preceding the Ryder Cup that he had played some of “the best golf of my life” in recent weeks.
Then he hit one of his worst shots.
To say Snedeker’s drive on the 18th hole of Friday morning foursomes was errant would be like saying the NFL’s use of replacement referees sparked a brief conversation instead of a national debate that raged for weeks. It was almost laughably far to the right except that the moment was deadly serious.
“Got to 18 with a chance to win the match, which is what you're trying do,” he said. “I just [hit] an awful shot. … Under pressure I get quick and stuff happens in my swing that I don't want to happen.”
That wayward shot effectively cost the U.S. the first match of the biennial competition and his performance throughout was somewhat representative of how the entire three days went for the U.S. at Hazeltine Country Club. For a time, it looked like a rout in favor of the host county but ultimately every point was precious.
As usual, there was a lot of drama and spirited competition. In the end, though, a terrible performance in the Sunday singles cost the Americans, who lost 14 ½ - 13 ½ after having led 10-6 at the start of the day. Europe matched the record for the largest Sunday comeback when it won the first five matches and eight of 12 overall with one draw.
“It's a little bit shocking,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said. “You know, we were playing so well, everyone on our team was playing so well, we just didn't figure it didn't matter how we sent them out there.
“But we put who we thought was our hot players up front and who we thought was our steady players in the back that would get us point.”
Snedeker, a Ryder Cup rookie who a week earlier won the Tour Championship and captured the FedEx Cup, went out fifth for the Americans and was matched with Paul Lawrie.
No one had a worse day than the Nashville native. He fell behind on the fourth hole, was three back at the turn and was finished off at the 15th. The final score was 5 and 3. Every other match went at least as far as the 16th hole.
Coincidentally, Lawrie’s only other Ryder Cup appearance was 1999. That was the only other time a team rallied from 10-6 down, only it was the American’s who turned the tables.
The lopsided nature of the match was in stark contrast to what Snedeker experienced the first two days.
He played just one of the two sessions on Friday and Saturday. In each case he paired with veteran Jim Furyk in foursomes (alternate shot) against Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world rankings, and Graeme McDowell, who made the winning putt in the 2010 Ryder Cup. Both matches went all the way to the 18th hole.
“I'm proud of my partner here,” Furyk said. “He played like a champ. If there's anyone on the team now that I want standing over a five‑footer that I just ran by the hole or left short, I want this guy over that five‑footer, I promise you.”
On Friday, Snedeker and Furyk rallied from three down with eight to play and pulled even when the won the 15th and 16th holes to cap a run of three straight birdies. Snedeker’s miss off the tee on the final hole allowed the Europeans to claim the hole and the match with a par.
On Saturday, in the last of the four morning matches, the Americans went 1-up with a birdie on the first and led the entire way. The advantage never was more than 2-up, though, and with a birdie on 16 the Europeans managed to extend the match the distance.
Snedeker again hit off the tee and again missed the fairway. This time, though, he only went as far as a fairway bunker, from which Furyk was able to reach the green. They saved par, halved the hole and won 1-up.
“I got the monkey off my back,” Snedeker said. “[Friday] was kind of hard to take, to give away that half a point on 18 the way I drove it, but when you've got a player like [Furyk], you're never out of it.
“… I can't tell you how much pressure on those shots coming down the stretch were.”