The 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup Biennial Matches is now in the record books. Team USA won the Cup this catchy time around, Team Europe may have been too long in the tooth, and Whistling Straits was a top site for what has become the most fascinating three days of team golf in golf.
For golf fans who were eagerly awaiting a hotly contested game, this simply should not be the case. The United States took a 3-1 lead in the foursomes (alternative shot) on Friday morning, followed suit in the four-ball (best ball) matches on Friday afternoon, and held a 6- lead. 2 after the first day. The lead became almost insurmountable on Saturday as Team USA collected three more points on Saturday morning to extend their lead to 9-3. The United States team held the serve on Saturday night to wrap up the two-day match-play sessions by an 11-5 margin. The European team had to win nine of the 12 individual matches on Sunday to retain the Ryder Cup, and it was too steep a mountain to climb.
When the dust finally settled on Sunday night after Team USA took the win by a dynamic 19-9 margin, it was a team’s most dominant performance since America’s victory in Houston in 1967.
Spaniard Jon Rahm has shown why he is the No. 1 player in the world. Viktor Hovland has shown why he will be part of the European Ryder Cup teams for the next decade. Sergio Garcia had a winning record, but much of that can be attributed to his partnership with Rahm. After that, everything was negative for the European side.
Rory McIlroy won his singles match on Sunday morning and didn’t do much else. For the 32-year-old Irishman, owner of four major championships, it was an uninspired performance in a generally poor season. To his credit, Rory was greatly disappointed with his play. The other factor in Europe’s defeat is the obvious aging of Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter. They have been the heart and soul of Team Europe during the last decade of Ryder Cup domination, but the changing of the guard was a specific theme this time around. The four 40-plus was a 5-9 combined, and three of those points were due to Sergio’s partnership with Rahm. These results are largely reminiscent of the 2018 Ryder Cup matches in Paris when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were a 0-6 combined. When all is said and done, time flies, and so far Father Time has remained undefeated. Expect plenty of new faces playing for Team Europe in 2023 in Rome.
On the flip side, Team USA’s six rookies made up exactly half of their 12-man squad. Only two golfers, Harris English and Dustin Johnson, were in their 30s. He showed the dynamic strengths of the Team USA youth movement. The 20-something rookie acted like she had nerves of steel. Fed Ex Cup champion Patrick Cantlay and British Open titlist Collin Morakawa have both been 3-0-1 in their four matches. Olympic golf gold medalist Xander Sc Chaudele was 3-1, and 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau was 2-1, as were Daniel Berger and veteran Cupper Justin Thomas. Scottie Scheffler was 2-0-1. Former team member Dustin Johnson, 37, has won all five of their games to finish 5-0. All 12 members of the US team scored points and eight of them had winning records. The US rookies had a combined 14-4-3 record. That kind of math is what it takes to win the Ryder Cup.
On paper, Team USA seemed to be the favorite, but paper rarely wins when it comes to golf. The difference between the best golfer in the world and the 50th best is usually about a half stroke per round. Add match play dynamics to the mix and you have situations like the USA side losing seven of the last nine Ryder Cups since the turn of the century. The fact that the USA team averaged a world ranking of 8.9 didn’t seem to matter much to wasted efforts of the past. The United States team played well, the European team struggled and the site was perfectly suited to the strengths of the American team.
I was a little surprised to watch the games on TV as Whistling Straits played a lot harder on my last visit in June 2018. The one foot fescue rough was reduced to a few inches and the fairways were a lot wider. While the four par-3 holes are the strength of the course, the two drivable par-4s coupled with the eagles and birdies made on the par-5s played American strength in power off the tee. The Whistling Strait was a great site for the Ryder Cup, not only visually, but also because it played on America’s ability to kick the ball off the tee. With the exception of Rahm, most of the European squad were 30 to 40 meters shorter than the Americans at the start. The United States team hit a lot of holds in the par 4s throughout the week.
So what does all this mean? Well, over a weekend, a team of 12 American professional golfers beat their European counterparts. Since the 2014 games, Team USA has won twice at home while Team Europe has won twice at home. The Ryder Cup venue in 2023 is a stop on the European tour for the Italian Open, so you have to understand that Team Europe will have a bit of an advantage on the home course. You can also be sure that the next European captain will set the course for the benefit of the Europeans.
On the other hand, there is a prevailing belief that the American core of Morikawa, Thomas, Spieth, Berger, Sc Chaudele, Cantlay, Finau, Kopeka, Scheffler and DeChambeau have just entered their golf bonuses and will continue to stay that way. of the best golfers in the world. Rahm and Hovland are their equals, but at the moment there aren’t many Europeans ready to join them. Robert MacIntyre, Victor Perez, Guido Migliozzi and the Hojgaard twins may be ready to enter the Ryder Cup fray, but MacIntyre has the lowest world ranking in the group, currently in 55th place. The American junior golf system of the AJGA, USGA and NCAA tournament experience is something that is not part of European junior golf. In fact, look at the top two Euros in their 20s, namely Rahm and Hovland, who played collegially at Arizona State and Oklahoma State. Are there enough European children in the hopper to be competitive for the next two Cups? How many dominate college golf?
The last Ryder Cup matches are now in the record books. Team USA was the winner, Steve Stricker was the winning captain, and Whistling Straits reinforced its image as one of America’s great courses. As for Team Europe, it was a great race. The future of the Euro holds many questions.