HAVEN, Wis. — The first tee on a Ryder Cup Sunday is usually a place of high tension. This Ryder Cup Sunday is different.
When Justin Thomas stepped onto the tee for his match with Tyrrell Hatton of England, the home fans in the surrounding grandstand implored Thomas to chug a beer, as he had at the same spot Saturday afternoon when the American team built a nearly insurmountable lead ahead of the competition’s final stage.
Thomas, as he was getting ready to play in one the 12 Sunday singles matches that were so exciting, smiled and waved away the cans full of beer.
“Yeah, later,” a fan yelled from the rollicking grandstand. “He’ll catch up on the beers later.”
Yes, he would. The Champagne, too.
The United States golfers, who had been in trouble for most of the 25 years of Ryder Cup competition have won a three-day victory over the European team to win this year’s event. Though they needed to win only three and a half points on Sunday to secure the Ryder Cup trophy — each match victory is worth one point and a tie is worth half a point — the Americans attacked brazenly, capturing eight of a possible 12 available points to trounce the Europeans, 19-9.
The 1979 record of 19 points was set in modern format. The previous record was 18½ points, which was accomplished by the United States in 1981 and the Europeans in 2004 and 2006.
The American Patrick Cantlay, who remained undefeated in this year’s event with a decisive 4 and 2 victory over Shane Lowry of Ireland on Sunday, summarized his team’s uncompromising attitude during the three days of competition at Whistling Straits, a daunting golf course along two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in central Wisconsin.
“I woke up this morning and told the guys, ‘Let’s get 20 points,’” Cantlay said. “This is the next era of Ryder Cup teams for the U.S.A., and I wanted to send a message. Everyone on our team has a killer’s instinct and we’re going to bring that to future Cups.”
Collin Morikawa added, “It was imperative that we win this Ryder Cup for American golf, but it’s not just a win, it’s a dominant win, and that matters.”
The American team chose to ride a youth movement to victory. It had eight players under 30 years old and six who were making Ryder Cup debuts. It was the youngest American squad in the 94-year history of the event. It was also notably absent of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson who had shaped the team since the 1990s. From 1993 to this week, the American teams had lost nine out of 12 Ryder Cups.
With American golf — competitively and recreationally — undergoing a changing of the guard, it was fitting that the U.S. Ryder Cup team was built around nine players ranked in the top 10 of the men’s world golf rankings, who collectively have an average age of 26.2. The youngest in the group, Morikawa, 24, was undefeated in this year’s event and secured the half-point that clinched victory on Sunday afternoon. At roughly the same time, the team’s elder, Dustin Johnson, 37, won his match to become just the fifth player to have a 5-0 record in one Ryder Cup.
The Europeans found the score surprising, even though the Americans had the stronger lineup, as measured by their world rankings and tournaments. Jon Rahm, the top-ranked men’s golfer, was the only European player in the world top 10. The European team was also supported by a host of Ryder Cup veterans including four over 40.
Ian Poulter, a fiery leader, and Ryder Cup stalwart was not able to provide the team with the emotional lift he normally brought in the first day of team matches. Poulter’s victory over Tony Finau, an American, on Sunday saw him win 3 and 2.
“Congrats to Team U.S.A., they owned each of those team sessions on Friday and Saturday,” Poulter, 45, said late Sunday afternoon. “They made it very tough on us and this week is deflating. But we’ve got good young players too, and they will take this forward. They are more than capable of coming back the next time.”
Padraig, the European captain, thanked his American counterpart Steve Stricker for adjusting the U.S. selection process to ensure that half of his team was selected at his discretion. Most of the players were selected using a points system that was based on months of results. Stricker made it a point to name a team of players whose personalities meshed — and whose games were on the rise in recent weeks.
“They got their plan right,” Harrington said. “Of course, we’re disappointed, but the U.S. outplayed us. You have to see the facts.”
Rory McIlroy was emotional after his win against Xander Schauffele in the singles. He had played a prominent role in previous European victories. McIlroy struggled during the first two days of the event.
“I love my teammates so much and I should have done more for them this week,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been extremely disappointed that I haven’t contributed more for the team.”
McIlroy wiped his eyes and congratulated the Americans. He looked forward to a rematch in the Ryder Cup’s second year in Italy.
“The more I play in this event, the more I realize it’s the best event in golf,” he said. “Just the best.”
Morikawa’s clinching point was earned in a tie with Viktor Hovland. In addition to Cantlay’s victory for the Americans, Thomas defeated Hatton, 4 and 3; Scottie Scheffler beat Rahm, 4 and 3; Bryson DeChambeau overcame Sergio Garcia, 3 and 2; Brooks Koepka defeated Bernd Wiesberger, 2 and 1; Daniel Berger rallied past Matthew Fitzpatrick, 1-up; and Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood tied.
Asked about his winning management style, Stricker said: “We took away a lot of the fluff and kept things as simple as we could. We put the players in pairs that they helped to shape with their input. And they wanted to come together — they all did.”
Stricker, for example, insists that Koepka & DeChambeau, whose sniping social-media feud has been a major storyline on the PGA Tour this season, asked to play together
“That shows you how together our team had become,” Stricker said with a grin.
Stricker has never paired the two.
But in a show of the spirit and camaraderie that can envelop even heated rivals during a record-setting Ryder Cup performance, as the American team was celebrating its victory Sunday — with copious amounts of alcohol — Koepka and DeChambeau slapped hands and briefly hugged.
Only on a Ryder Cup Sunday.
Source: NY Times