HAVEN, Wis.—The longstanding U.S. frustrations in the Ryder Cup are over. After losing to Europe in four of the previous five meetings and seven of the last nine captain Steve Stricker found a combination of young players who dominated the 43rd staging of golf’s premier team event at Whistling Straits.
In fact, this American team dominated like no other. The 19-9 victory was underscored by the fact that the American side set the modern day point record. The winning 1981 U.S. team had 18 ½ in its victory at Walton Heath in England.
“It sure feels like this is the start of a new era,’’ said Stricker, who used a roster that included six first-time Ryder Cup players. “The Ryder Cup means a lot to everybody, and this is the greatest team of all time. These guys are unbelievable. They came in with a lot of fire, had a mission and did it.’’
Stricker has been an emotional leader. He has been a vice captain of the U.S. side since he stopped playing on the team and also captained the President’s Cup team. Winning the Ryder Cup, especially in his native Wisconsin, was a well-deserved reward for one of America’s most popular golfers
“You’re trying to make me cry, aren’t you?’’ said Stricker, who played collegiately for the University of Illinois. “This is very special. I never won a major, but this is my major right here. ‘’
After building up an 11-5 lead in two days of foursome and four-ball matches the U.S. made quick work of reclaiming the Ryder Cup. The clincher came when Ryder Cup rookie Collin Morikawa holed a four-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole to assure the Americans had the necessary 14 1/2 points to win.
In a battle of the game’s brightest young stars Morikawa had a spirted duel with Norway’s Viktor Hovland in the fifth of the 12 singles matches. Their match ended in a tie with seven matches left on the course but the tension remained with the point record on the line.
The U.S. team, had much more lofty goals than just winning the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2016. Haunted by the Europeans’ domination of the event, U.S. players wanted a one-sided win. They needed. That was a possibility after Europe’s Rory McIlroy won the first match of the day. At that point 11 matches were on the course and the U.S. led in nine.
In 1979 the Ryder Cup format switched to allow a team from all of Europe instead of just Great Britain and Ireland. Two years later the U.S. team piled up 18 ½ points at Walton Heath. Such American successes were few and far between after that, the most painful defeat coming at Medinah in 2012 when they fizzled in singles after going in with a 10-6 lead.
This time singles success came in abundance. Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger were winners and Morikawa and Jordan Spieth tied in their matches to get the record point total.
The Europeans took the loss hard. McIlroy and Ian Poulter, for years the mainstays on the European team, were in tears even though both scored their only points of this year’s Ryder Cup on Sunday.
While the U.S. win was an obvious team effort, there were special performances. Johnson, at 37 the oldest American player, won all five of his matches. In 2019 Scheffler won the Evans Scholars Invitational, a Korn Ferry Tour event held at The Glen Club in Glenview. That helped him advance to the PGA Tour and on Sunday he was the man of the hour at the Ryder Cup, beating world No. 1 Jon Rahm.
“I got off to a nice start – five birdies in the first six holes –and kept the pressure on him the whole day. I was super happy seeing a lot of red on the scoreboard,’’ said Scheffler.
Rahm took the loss in stride, but downplayed the magnitude of it.
“It not what any of us wanted,’’ said Rahm. “We all tried our hardest and just got beat. You lose by a half-point or by 10, it doesn’t matter.’’
Cantllay, another of the U.S. rookies, won the FedEx Cup two weeks ago and kept the momentum going at Whistling Straits. His win over Shane Lowry started Sunday’s 7-0-2 run in the singles matches.
“I wanted to send a message,’’ said Cantlay. “We sent out four rookies in the first five matches. That’s unheard of. We’re young, but most of us have played together since we were teen-agers.’’
Obviously the future of American golf is bright. They’re already looking ahead to the next Ryder Cup, in Italy in 2023.