INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
Independence nearly matc ... »
CHASKA, Minn. — Sunday at the 41st Ryder Cup produced a U.S. win for the first time since 2008, as the Americans prevailed 17-11, and Zach Johnson finally got to celebrate on the winning side of these biennial matches.
“You know what, I’m on cloud nine right now,” Johnson said after his 4&3 win over Matthew Fitzpatrick in the day’s final match. “I feel terrific. That was a team effort all the way through.”
It wasn’t just the team Johnson thought about in this moment of breakthrough, but also those who helped lead and inspire, including a player turned-vice captain.
“I’m so happy for Davis (Love), so happy for our vice captains,” Johnson said. “I think the grace and humility that Bubba (Watson) showed to want to be a part of this even though he didn’t make the team as a player speaks volumes. That was just a domino effect starting the beginning of the week.”
Johnson had many highlights during his dominant victory over the young Fitzpatrick but perhaps the most impressive was the 50-foot putt he made on the par 4 tenth for birdie which brought him from 1-up to 2-up. Of course caddie Damon Green had to break out in the chicken dance once it dropped.
Johnson never looked back, stretching the lead to 3-up on 12 and 4-up on 15.
Johnson looked full of electricity as he celebrated by bear-hugging teammates afterward, and at one point he walked over to Patrick Reed’s wife Justine and said “I don’t know how Patrick does it, keep it going.”
So much joy exuded seemingly from Johnson’s pores in his celebrations, and it begged the question of how he would measure the hurt of the four losses he experienced to Sunday’s joy.
“This is way, way heavier, it’s complete joy,” Johnson said. “The previous losses weighed heavy too. If anything, it’s added motivation. You have got to turn those negatives into positives. This is a positive.
“I hope this is just the beginning.”
As Johnson strode to the first tee Sunday, fans serenaded him with chants of “I believe that Zach will win!”
Johnson then pointed to his mother in the crowd and gave her a hug as the crowd began singing “Happy Birthday to Zach’s mom.”
Seconds later chants erupted of “Ce-dar Rap-ids, Ce-dar Rap-ids.”
That kind of supportive and fun-loving atmosphere was fitting for what would be a U.S. coronation in the end.
Johnson also pointed to the way the team adopted a selfless mentality throughout the week in their charge toward victory.
“Regardless of what the scoreboard said and regardless of the matches were we kept fighting,” Johnson said. “This team was a team. There was no I. It was all we. Twelve strong.”