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Former FSU star played important role in Ryder Cup victory

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There is no question the MVG (Most Valuable Golfer) of the 2016 Ryder Cup is Patrick Reed. His play throughout the weekend, especially the classic, head-to-head, toe-to-toe struggle with Europe’s Rory McIlroy, set the tone for the entire team.

There are two other guys who qualify as co-runners up. While every player contributed to the 17-11 USA victory, these two played a vitally important role.

When things looked like they were beginning to go south for the USA on Friday afternoon and again on Saturday morning, Brandt Snedeker and former Florida State star Brooks Koepka kept the ship afloat.

On Sunday, their cannons made direct hits that finally helped sink the European armada. Reed fired the biggest shot(s), but “Snepka” deserves recognition.

The USA rolled to a four-match sweep on Friday morning, but after lunch McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose along with Ryder Cup rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello got it going in a big way. They fought back and threatened to take away all momentum gained by the Americans in the morning as they went for their own sweep.

Snedeker and Koepka kept that from happening. Taking on two-time major tournament winner Martin Kaymer and reigning Masters Champion Danny Willett, Snepka took down the two Europeans before the match reached the 15th hole to preserve the lead.

On Saturday, the Europeans were rolling again. Again, Snepka won the only full point of the morning (Reed and Jordan Spieth managed a half-point with a halved match). That victory again allowed the USA to maintain the lead at 6 ½ to 5 ½.

USA Captain Davis Love III gave Snedeker Saturday afternoon off, pairing Koepka with U.S. Open Champion Dustin Johnson. In an afternoon where the Americans won three of four matches, Koepka and Johnson suffered the only loss. But they still led going into Sunday’s singles, 9 ½ to 6 ½.

With Reed setting the tone on Sunday, his teammates followed. The Americans took 7 ½ of the available 12 points and turned a close competition into a rout.

Koepka defeated Willett 5 and 4 in the most lopsided match of the day while Snedeker topped Europe’s Andy Sullivan by a margin of 3 and 1. The Ryder Cup had returned to the United States for the first time since 2008.

Koepka has come a long way from his upbringing in Lake Worth, Fla. He went on to FSU where he became a three-time All American. Now as a young professional, Koepka found himself in Minnesota as a Ryder Cup participant.

“Just to be here is incredible,” Koepka said on Wednesday. “It’s been a long journey and it’s fun to finally be here instead of watching.”

Snedeker is certainly a fan of his playing partner.

“The guy needs to know how good he is,” Snedeker said. “And he’s starting to figure it out right now.”

The Europeans got a good idea of just how good he is and a double dose of how good and mentally tough both halves of Snepka are.

After three days of inspiring golf, Koepka is now labeled as a future star in the event. Playing that well under that kind pressure could point toward a major championship or two before the 2018 Ryder Cup in France.

But only if he truly knows how good he is.

 

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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