Europe’s lopsided Ryder Cup defeat to the Americans on Sunday seemed more than just an end to the biennial matches three years in the waiting – it seemed like an end of an era.
The youngest American team in Ryder Cup history delivered a decisive message with a 19-9 victory over Pádraig Harrington’s team of veterans from Europe. Any hopes of surpassing the miracle at Medinah and rallying from an 11-5 deficit were quickly dashed by a talented U.S. team that refused to wilt.
As European stalwarts like Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, and Sergio Garcia – who have represented a seamless transition from Seve Ballesteros and the first generation of European greats – age out, a new generation of fearless, talented, and scar-free Americans cycle in with greater numbers than their European rivals.
Collin Morikawa with the clincher and the U.S. has won the Ryder Cup for just the third time this century. And now they try to go for some records…— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) September 26, 2021
Sending out rookies in four of the first five matches to clinch the victory, U.S. team captain Steve Stricker and his fresh-faced roster wanted to deliver a message that it’s a new day for the biennial matches that Europe has enjoyed sustained success in for the bulk of the last 35 years.
“They had a mission this week and you could tell, they played great and they came together,” said Stricker. “This is a new era for USA golf. They are young. They come with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of game. They are just so good.”
Fittingly, America’s youngest player, Collin Morikawa, delivered the decisive blow with a 221-yard tee shot to 3 feet on the par-3 17th hole to make birdie and get dormie against Viktor Hovland to secure the half point needed to win back the Ryder Cup for America. It became official a hole later when Morikawa was conceded a half-point by Hovland.
That followed full points won by Patrick Cantlay, 29, Scottie Scheffler, 25, and Bryson DeChambeau, 28, to get the 3½ points the U.S. needed after staking itself to an 11-5 lead.
The Americans were determined to break the record of 18½ points for a winning side since continental Europe joined the party. Europe won 18½-9½ twice in 2004 and 2006 while the Americans did it once in 1981 with a hall-of-fame roster that included 11 players that won major championships in their careers.
“I woke up this morning and I was trying to tell the guys this is going to be the next era of Ryder Cup team for the U.S. side,” said Cantlay, who beat Shane Lowry 4 and 2.
“We have a lot of young guys and I think they are going to be on teams for a long time and I want to send a message. I think the young guys on this team get along really well. We sent out rookies maybe four out of the first five matches. I mean, that's unheard of and those guys are performing. Everybody gets along. The atmosphere is light but I know everyone has that killer instinct and we are going to bring that to future Cups.”
Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood signed off for perhaps the last time as Ryder Cup players with singles wins, preventing the Americans from hitting their desired 20-point mark. Poulter cruised to a 3-and-2 win over Tony Finau to run his undefeated Ryder Cup singles record to 6-0-1. Westwood rallied for a 1-up win over Harris English, who made a hash of the 18th hole.
Trying to stave off the most lopsided victory for any team since continental Europe was included in 1979, Europe rallied from 1-down deficits in the last three matches on the course to take them to the 18th hole.
Westwood won and Tommy Fleetwood garnered a half point against Jordan Spieth. But Matthew Fitzpatrick hit his approach shot into a creek to give Daniel Berger a 1-up win and give the U.S. 19 points and a 10-point margin. Fitzpatrick’s match record is 0-5 in two career Ryder Cups.
“Just have to accept it,” Garcia said of the stinging defeat. “The Americans, they played great, they made most of the right shots at the right time and most of the putts when they had to. It's quite simple.”
Despite Rory McIlroy’s first point of the week in the opening singles match against Xander Schauffele, Team USA painted the rest of the leaderboard red to snuff any European ideas of waging an historic comeback.
“Glad I got a point on the board for Europe, but disappointed I didn't do it sooner,” said McIlroy.
“Look, it's not for me, but just for the team, and it sucks. It sucks losing. It sucks not being able to be competitive. And yeah, I'm glad I put a point on the board for Europe today and that was my goal and mission and I was able to accomplish that. But when I look back on this week, it will be a case of sort of lost opportunity.”
Even Europe’s Spanish strongholds of Jon Rahm and Garcia were no match for the young Americans on Sunday.
Scheffler, the youngest-ever captain’s pick for the U.S., went out against unbeaten and world No. 1 Rahm and promptly birdied the first four holes to seize command with a 4-up lead that Rahm was never able to cut closer than 3 holes en route to a 4-and-3 win that happened almost simultaneously to Cantlay closing out Lowry just a hole ahead.
“I kept the pressure on him the whole day,” said Scheffler.
Garcia was 3-0 in matches with Rahm to run his European career record point total to 28½, but he was no match for America’s brash, ball-bashing DeChambeau, who won the first two holes and never let Garcia get back to square in a 3-and-2 win that got the U.S. to 14 points on the brink of securing the Ryder Cup.
“He's an unbelievable player in match play and I knew today was going to be a tough fight and I had to go out and make a lot of birdies,” DeChambeau said.
Dustin Johnson, the oldest American player at age 37, became only the second U.S. player to go 5-0-0 since Europe was included in the Ryder Cup, tying Larry Nelson in 1979 when Johnson secured a 1-up win over Paul Casey. Four of Johnson’s points this week came at the expense of Casey.
Francesco Molinari went 5-0-0 for Europe in 2018.
“I did not expect to go 5-0-0 and did not expect to play five matches,” said Johnson.