HAVEN, Wisconsin – The first tee of a Ryder Cup Sunday is usually a place of high tension. But not on this Ryder Cup Sunday.
When Justin Thomas got off the tee for his match with England’s Tyrrell Hatton, home fans in the surrounding grandstand implored Thomas for a beer, as he did at the same spot on Saturday afternoon when the team American has built an almost insurmountable lead in front of the final stage of the competition.
Thomas, preparing to play one of Sunday’s decisive 12 singles matches, smiled but rejected the beer cans offered.
“Yeah, later,” a fan shouted from the bustling podium. “He’ll catch up on the beers later.”
Yes, he would. And Champagne too.
American golfers, besieged for most of the last 25 years of Ryder Cup competition, ended a three-day rout of the normally dominant European team on Sunday to win the event for the third time this century. Although they only needed to earn three and a half points on Sunday to win the Ryder Cup trophy – every match win is worth a point and a tie is worth half a point – the Americans cheekily attacked, capturing eight of the 12 possible points to beat the Europeans, 19-9.
The 19 points is a record in a modern format for the event, set in 1979. The previous record was 18½ points, which was achieved by the United States in 1981 and the Europeans in 2004 and 2006.
American Patrick Cantlay, who went undefeated in this year’s event with a decisive 4-2 victory over Shane Lowry of Ireland on Sunday, summed up his team’s uncompromising attitude over the three days of competition at Whistling Straits, an intimidating two-mile-long Lake Michigan Shore golf course in central Wisconsin.
“I woke up this morning and said to the guys, ‘Let’s get 20 points,’” Cantlay said. “It’s the next era for Ryder Cup teams for the United States, and I wanted to send a message. Everyone on our team has a killer instinct and we’ll be bringing it 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 it’s important.
The USA squad deliberately led a youth movement to victory, with a roster comprising eight players under the age of 30 and six making their Ryder Cup debuts. It was the youngest American team of the 94 years of the event and notably devoid of golf luminaries, like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who had defined the team since the 1990s. But from 1993 to this week, these teams Americans had lost nine of the 12 Ryder Cups contested.
With American golf – both competitive and recreational – undergoing a changing of the guard, it was fitting for the U.S. Ryder Cup team to consist of nine players ranked in the top 10 of the men’s golf world rankings, who collectively an average age of 26.2 years. The youngest of the group, Morikawa, 24, was undefeated in this year’s event and earned the half point that saw him win on Sunday afternoon. Around the same time, the team’s eldest Dustin Johnson, 37, won his match to become the fifth player to go 5-0 in a Ryder Cup.
For the Europeans, the lopsided score came as a shock, even though the Americans had the strongest golfing lineup, measured by world rankings and tournaments won this season. Top ranked male golfer Jon Rahm was the only European player in the world top 10. In addition, the European squad relied on a host of Ryder Cup veterans, four of whom were over 40 years old.
Ian Poulter, a fiery leader and mainstay of the Ryder Cup, failed to provide the emotional boost he usually brought to the squad in the first two days of tag team matches. Although Poulter, with his 3-2 victory over American Tony Finau on Sunday, remained undefeated in Ryder Cup singles matches.
“Kudos to Team USA, they owned each of these team sessions on Friday and Saturday,” Poulter, 45, said late Sunday afternoon. “They made it very difficult for us and this week is slowing down. But we also have some good young players, and they will continue. They are more than able to come back next time.
European captain Padraig Harrington praised his US counterpart Steve Stricker, who adjusted the US selection process so that half of his squad were nominated at his discretion. In the past, most players qualified by a point grid based on several months of results. Stricker was keen to name a squad of players whose personalities have mingled – and whose games have been on the rise in recent weeks.
“They have prepared their plan well,” said Harrington. “Of course we are disappointed, but the United States has dominated us. You have to see the facts. “
Rory McIlroy, who has played a starring role in previous European victories, was in tears on Sunday, even after winning his singles match against Xander Sc Chaudele. 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,” said McIlroy. “I was extremely disappointed not to have contributed more for the team.
Wiping his eyes, McIlroy congratulated the Americans and looked forward to a rematch two years from now when the Ryder Cup resumes in Italy.
“The more I play in this event, the more I realize that this is the best golf event,” he said. “Just the best.”
Morikawa’s decisive point was tied with Viktor Hovland. In addition to Cantlay’s victory for the Americans, Thomas beat Hatton, 4 and 3; Scottie Scheffler defeated Rahm, 4 and 3; Bryson DeChambeau defeated Sergio Garcia, 3 and 2; Brooks Koepka beat Bernd Wiesberger, 2 and 1; Daniel Berger joined with Matthew Fitzpatrick, 1-up; and Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood tied.
Asked about his winning management style, Stricker said, “We’ve taken a lot of the fluff out and kept it as simple as possible. We put the players in pairs that they helped form with their input. And they wanted to come together – they all did.
As an example, Stricker insisted that Koepka and DeChambeau, whose social media sniping feud has been the main story of the PGA Tour this year, have asked to play together.
“It shows you how much our team has become together,” Stricker said with a smile.
Although Stricker never paired the two.
But in a display of the wit and camaraderie that can envelop even passionate rivals in a record-breaking Ryder Cup performance, as Team USA celebrated their victory on Sunday – with copious amounts of booze – Koepka and DeChambeau slapped their hands and hugged briefly.
Only on a Ryder Cup Sunday.