Team US regained the Ryder Cup on Sunday following a historically dominant performance over Europe at Whistling Straits.
With an 11-5 point lead entering the final day, the Americans simply needed to avoid a record-setting collapse to claim victory and retake the most cherished cup in golf. But as golfers know, this game offers no guarantees, and Ryder Cups are uniquely susceptible to the extraordinary.
Not this time. The Americans required just 3.5 points out of a possible 12 on Sunday to claim victory, a task many believed to be too far gone. But trailing in a tournament, regardless of the margin, and officially losing one are two very different ideas, and the European team gave a gallant effort with Rory McIlroy first out of the gate Sunday morning. Rory got up early against Xander Schauffele to keep his team’s hope alive. After a five-foot miss to win on the 15th green, Rory eventually sealed his match the next hole, winning 3&2. But that’s where the European momentum ended.
Captain’s pick and the lowest ranked American team member, Scottie Scheffler, took down world number one Jon Rahm in a big way, winning 4&3. The rest of the American side continued their dominance into Sunday afternoon, and at one point led every match after Rory finished play. Much of the afternoon read like a Gordon Lightfoot lyric, “everyman knew, and the captain did too,” as the inevitable slowly became reality.
The end did come when on the 17th green Colin Morikawa tapped in to guarantee a half point in his match ensuring The United States would retain the cup.
“They had a mission this week,” said Steve Stricker, U.S. team captain. “This is a new era for U.S.A golf.”
The Start of a Dynasty?
The American side is packed with youth and talent, two ingredients that bode well for longstanding dominance at this event. Dustin Johnson is the oldest U.S. team member at just 35 years old, with names like Spieth, Morikawa, Thomas, Scheffler, and Cantlay all in their 20s. Juxtapose that with the the Europeans, whose core veterans Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia are all over 40 years of age.
The Spanish Duo of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia single-handedly (double-handedly?) salvaged the week from being a total shakedown, earning the Euro team three of their five points during Friday and Saturday’s four-ball and foursome matches. Rahm also picked up a tie and half a point when paired with Tyrell Hatton during Friday afternoon’s four-ball. Will this be Sergio’s final Ryder Cup? After securing his record-setting 24th match win of his career, Sergio is going down as one of the all-time greats, but it remains to be seen if he’ll continue adding to that winning total.
The Roars Fell Silent
Rory McIlroy hasn’t played his last Ryder Cup by a long stretch, so he’ll have plenty of chances to improve upon this year’s showing. Winning just one point for his side, the Euro stalwart didn’t have his best stuff all week, and it showed up on the scoreboard. As names like Westwood, Poulter and Sergio transition into Assistance Captaincy territory, Rory will need to shepherd a batch of new talent in the coming years to counter the U.S. team’s explosive talent.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t contribute more this week but in two years time we’ll go again and give it another go,” said a visually emotional McIlroy after winning his match.
Friday and Saturday Recap
There’s no secret the U.S. has struggled at the Ryder Cup. But they came out on the first day determined to put that in the past. The U.S. won three points in the morning and two points in the afternoon to set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
Key American player: Dustin Johnson
Yes, Bryson DeChambeau hit a 417-yard drive, but it was Johnson who was the real force for the U.S. team in the morning on day one. He put two points on the board by bettering Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland 3 and 2 (while paired with Collin Morikawa), and then putting a pasting on a struggling Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter in the second match while playing with Xander Schauffele. There were immediately concerns about McIlroy’s struggles.
Key European player: Jon Rahm.
He’s not the best in the world for nothing, and he quickly became Europe’s most important player. Paired with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia in the foursomes Friday morning, they bettered the Americans comprised of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. In the afternoon, paired with Tyrell Hatton, they battled DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler right down to the wire. Admittedly it was Hatton who pulled out the halve, but it was clear that Rahm wasn’t going to be intimated by any of the Americans. He pulled out a point in the fourball matches paired with Sergio Garcia.
Europe needed a strong Saturday to put themselves back in the Ryder Cup, but it wasn’t to be. They continued to be steamrolled by Johnson and Morikawa, who took two more points, and the concerns about McIlroy’s struggles led to team captain Padraig Harrington sitting the Irish star for the first time in a Ryder Cup. The Europeans took two points in the afternoon, but it meant they faced an almost insurmountable American lead heading into Sunday.
Key American player: Dustin Johnson
The big-hitting major winner was once again paired with British Open winner Morikawa, and they smoked Hatton and Paul Casey in the morning, and bettered McIlroy and Ian Poulter in the afternoon. Johnson was only 7-9-0 coming into this Ryder Cup, but like many things in his career, he quickly put that out of mind and went about crusing through competitors.
Key European player: Ireland’s Shane Lowry
A captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, didn’t look like he’d be the hero on Sunday afternoon after finding a bunker on the long 18th hole. Lowry made six birdies in the round, but it was his par putt on the final hole—when he had to lay up after finding the hazard off the tee—that made Lowry the star of the day for the European team.