The Ryder Cup, arguably the most-coveted trophy in professional golf is back in American possession, and boy is it ever back!
Heading into the final day with a considerable 11-5 advantage on the Europeans, Captain Steve Stricker’s red, white, and blue crew went 8-3-2 in Sunday singles, the highlight of a 19-9 blowout. It was the largest margin of victory for the U.S. in the modern Ryder Cup.
With all 12 of their players ranking 21st or better in the Official World Golf Ranking, the Americans were heavily favored heading into the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. However, the U.S. did not let the odds make them uncomfortable.
Europe had dominated this event in recent years, winning seven of the nine Ryder Cups that had been held this millennium. Most notably, the Europeans obliterated the Americans at the 2018 event in France, despite the Americans being favored then as well.
The Europeans had much more Ryder Cup experience than the Americans, heck one of their players (Lee Westwood) had played in just two fewer Ryder Cups than the entire U.S. side combined. Stricker did not show a priority on experience when he made his six captain’s picks, as five of them were Ryder Cup rookies.
They ended up working flawlessly together, and basically from the first day, which the Americans won 6-2, the European side, captained by three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, looked completely overmatched.
Still, while overcoming a 11-5 deficit seemed like a longshot, 10-6 deficits had been overcome before, so nobody was taking anything for granted. The Europeans made a controversial decision in sending four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, who had looked terrible on the first two days, out first, but McIlroy rewarded Harrington’s confidence by knocking off Xander Schauffele 3&2.
Unfortunately for the Europeans, that is as close as they got. The U.S. dominated the early matches. That was even shockingly true for match 3, where Scottie Scheffler, who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, destroyed world No. 1 Jon Rahm, who had been far and away Europe’s best player through two days.
Bryson DeChambeau, who was horrific in 2018 was able to beat a hot Sergio Garcia with holes to spare. Everything was lining up just right for the U.S.
The clinching point was captured in just the fifth match, when Collin Morikawa bogeyed 18 to tie Viktor Hovland. Technically, it was a half-point, but regardless, it was enough to snag that mathematical win.
Morikawa, who over the past two years has won two majors (PGA Championship, Open Championship) in his event debuts, had come into the week off a poor three weeks in the FedExCup playoffs, largely due to an injury that had his expectations lowered for the week.
The 24-year-old Ryder Cup rookie went on to go 3-0-1 and win 3.5 points for the Americans, tying PGA Tour Player of the Year, and recent FedExCup Champion, Patrick Cantlay for the second best total in the field.
The star for the Americans was a surprise that really should not have been a surprise. With a 1-Up Sunday victory over Paul Casey, world No. 2 Dustin Johnson was the first American player to go 5-0-0 in the Ryder Cup in more than 40 years (Larry Nelson 1979).
Johnson came into the week off a thoroughly underwhelming 2021 calendar year. He was definitely a wild card.
The European side was mostly powered by the Spanish tandem of Rahm and Sergio Garcia, the only two European players to card multiple wins. Both lost badly on Sunday, however.
The next Ryder Cup is set for two years in Rome. The Americans figure to have an advantage there as well, despite the fact that they have not won the Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993. Whoever the Captain is, perhaps maybe even Stricker again, is likely to follow the model set in this thorough victory.
2020 Ryder Cup: Sunday Singles
1: Rory Mcilroy def. Xander Schauffele, 4&3
Many questioned the logic of Harrington putting McIlroy out first, given his faltering recent form, and the fact none of his first three matches even reached the 16th hole, but the six-time Ryder Cupper rewarded his captain’s trust, opening Sunday singles with a wire-to-wire victory over the recent gold medal winner at The Olympics.
McIlroy took the first hole with a birdie, and then took control of the match by winning 10 and 11. For Schauffele, it was his only loss for the week. He scored three points for the Americans, with two of those the result of a strong pairing between he and fellow Ryder Cup rookie Patrick Cantlay.
2: Patrick Cantlay def. Shane Lowry, 4&2
Speaking of Cantlay, his 3.5 points tied for the second-best on the American side. Having to tame a hot Lowry, whose emphatic celebration of his fourballs victory on Sunday afternoon went viral, Cantlay proved too much for the affable Irishman.
Lowry took an early lead after winning the second hole, but Cantlay exploded with wins on the next four holes to take a 3-UP lead. Lowry got the deficit down to one after winning the 12th hole, before Cantlay again got hot, winning 14, 15, and 16 to close out the win.
Lowry went 1-2-0 in his first Ryder Cup.
3: Scottie Scheffler def. Jon Rahm, 4&3
The shocker of Sunday. Many joked after Saturday’s matches that Harrington was going to play Rahm in every match on Sunday, being by far their best player throughout the week.
This match pitted the US’s lowest-ranked golfer (No. 21) against Europe’s highest-ranked (No. 1), but the expected blowout went the opposite direction as expected. Scheffler, playing in his first Ryder Cup, and still looking for his first victory on the PGA Tour, won each of the first holes, deflating Rahm early and never allowed him to get closer than two holes, closing him out with a birdie on 15.
Easily the most questioned of Stricker’s six captain’s picks, Scheffler went 2-0-1 for the week, earning 2.5 points for his team.
Rahm was 3-1-1 for the week, one of just two players with multiple wins for the European side.
4: Bryson DeChambeau def. Sergio Garcia, 3&2
DeChambeau was a disaster at the 2018 Ryder Cup, going 0-4-0 for the losing side. 2021 turned out be a year of redemption for the 2020 U.S. Open champion, who formed a surprisingly-strong team with Scottie Scheffler.
DeChambeau’s win over Garcia, who had been 3-0-0 on the week, meant a 2-0-1 record in his second appearance. Armed with distance he did not have in 2018, DeChambeau won the first two holes, and held on, winning seven holes total before the match ended on the 15th green.
Playing in his 10th Ryder Cup, Garcia formed an immaculate tandem with World No. 1 Jon Rahm.
5: Collin Morikawa tied Viktor Hovland
A match of Ryder Cup rookies well beyond their years, two-time major champion Morikawa clinched the winning half-point for the victorious American side when he sunk his short birdie putt on 17.
Hovland won the first two holes before Morikawa pulled it back to even by winning holes 4 and 5, and then asserted himself further by winning 6 and 7. The Norwegian star won three holes in a four-hole stretch on the back nine to tie the match with three to play.
Morikawa’s birdie on 17 meant Hovland could do no better than tie the match, which he did with a par on 18, combined with a bogey for Morikawa.
The 24-year-old Morikawa finished 3-0-1 for the week, accumulating 3.5 points, the second-best on the American side.
6: Dustin Johnson def. Paul Casey, 1-Up
Johnson, the world No. 2, and oldest player on the U.S. side by five years, has mostly struggled in the 2021 calendar year, and with a so-so record in the Ryder Cup, he kind of went under-the-radar heading into Whistling Straits.
DJ was spectacular for the week, going a perfect 5-0-0 for the Americans, which had not been done in more than 40 years. His brilliant week concluded with a narrow victory over a struggling Casey, who went 0-4-0 for the week.
Casey kept pace with Johnson, who first took a 1-up advantage with a birdie on 6, but was not quite able to get out front.
7: Brooks Koepka def. Bernd Wiesberger, 2&1
Another big mismatch on paper, the controversial four-time major winner Koepka was pitted against Austria’s Wiesberger, the lowest ranked player in the field (No. 63), who has just one career top-10 on American soil.
Wiesberger parred the first hole to take an initial 1-UP lead, and then going 1-UP again on 4. Koepka then won 5 and 7 to get out front, a lead he would not relinquish.
Tied with three holes to go, Koepka closed out Wiesberger with birdies on 16 and 17, the latter of which came courtesy of an incredible tee shot close to the hole.
Brooks went 2-2-0 to earn two points in his third Ryder Cup.
8: Ian Poulter def. Tony Finau, 3&2
It was a difficult week for Poulter, the 45-year-old Ryder Cup legend from England, as the seven-time participant lost his first two matches 5&3.
However, even being matched against a hot player with considerably more distance in Finau, Poulter was able to nab one of just three victories for the European side on Sunday. It was a tight battle on the front, but Poulter accelerated ahead by carding birdies on 10, 11, and 12.
Finau won just two holes in his quest to give Poulter his first career singles loss. Finau went 1-2-0, scoring a team-low one point for the Americans.
9: Justin Thomas def. Tyrrell Hatton, 4&3
Thomas went 4-1-0 as a Ryder Cup rookie in 2018, but came into the week in questionable form, and played poorly on the first day, despite being re-united with Spieth, the man he played so spectacularly with last time.
Thomas’ singles match was never questioned, however, as the reigning PLAYERS Champion won the first hole and never lost his lea, hitting 4-UP at the turn.
Hatton, also not coming into the week in his best form, carded just a single birdie before getting closed out on the 15th green.
Thomas went a respectable 2-1-1 for the week, while Hatton was 1-2-1, netting 1.5 points for the European side.
10: Lee Westwood def. Harris English, 1-Up
Qualifying for his 11th Ryder Cup via the World Points list, the 48-year-old Westwood was the oldest and most experienced player on either side.
In what figures to be his final Sunday singles match, Westwood overcame a two-hole deficit over the final four holes, winning on 18 after English landed a ball out of bounds.
English, a two-time 2021 season winner and another Ryder Cup rookie, and Westwood both finished the week 1-2-0 earning a single point for their side.
English’s one point tied Tony Finau for the American low.
11: Jordan Spieth tied Tommy Fleetwood
Making his fourth Ryder Cup appearance, Spieth has historically been tremendous in team play, but had yet to win in Sunday singles.
Spieth did not lose his match to Fleetwood, who went 4-1-0 for the Europeans in 2018, but was unable to hold onto a 1-Up lead with three to go, losing 16 before matching Fleetwood with pars on 17 and 18.
Spieth was 1-2-1 for the week, while Fleetwood was 0-2-1. This was the first time Spieth’s singles match even reached the 18th hole.
12: Daniel Berger def. Matt Fitzpatrick, 1-Up
With a victory wrapped up seemingly eons ago by this match, Berger, another Ryder Cup rookie had little pressure as the anchor against a struggling Fitzpatrick, who went 0-3-0 for the week and is 0-5-0 in his Ryder Cup career.
The two combined for seven birdies in an entertaining back nine, where Berger flipped Fitzpatrick’s one-hole advantage by winning 16 and 18.
Berger, who teamed with former Florida State teammate Brooks Koepka the previous two days, finished his Ryder Cup debut by going 2-0-1.
“Speechless. Everything about it, these guys all came together. Two weeks ago they came together. Showed me a lot about this group of guys. They all showed up for the practice rounds, all the assistant captains showed up at the practice rounds.
“They had a mission this week and you could tell, they played great and they came together. I just can’t tell you — I mean, Brooks and Bryson wanted to play together; that’s how much it came together. That shows a lot about this whole team.”
– American Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker