Collin Morikawa missed his final shot of the weekend but still clinched a dominant championship performance by the Americans at the 43rd Ryder Cup.
Unbeaten in his three matches on Friday and Saturday, the 24-year-old Cal grad and youngest player in the American roster, halved his singles point with Norway’s Viktor Hovland on Sunday to push the Americans’ total to 14 1/2 points, which locked up their win over the Europeans.
The tee shot that set up the clinching putt, and the tap-in that started the U.S. celebration:
By the time all 24 golfers were off the Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, Wisconsin, the Americans were celebrating a record-setting 19-9 triumph. The previous record in the 28-point format that was adopted in 1979 was 18.5 points, accomplished by the Americans in 1981 and Europe in 2004 and 2006.
Morikawa’s 10-foot par putt try on No. 18 slid just past the hole, giving Hovland the point and leaving them in a tie for the day. Each won seven holes.
Even so, Morikawa’s half-point contribution pushed the Americans over the threshold.
“Oh man, it means so much . . . everything,” Morikawa said. “Obviously, I want to make that putt. It was a great match against Viktor. To clinch this and bring the Cup back to home soil, it feels so good.”
Europe had won four of the previous five Ryder Cup titles, but American team captain Steve Stricker expected things would change this year. The 12 players on the American roster had an average world ranking of No. 9, compared with No. 30 for the Europeans.
“This is a new era for USA golf,” he said, alluding to the fact that six of the 12 golfers on the team, including Morikawa, were Ryder Cup rookies. “They come with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of game. They’re so good.”
“I don’t think it’s just a win. It’s dominant win,” Morikawa said. “All 12 of us when called upon showed up. We knew we had a very strong team. But it means nothing until you hit that first tee shot.”
Morikawa, the world’s third-ranked player and coming off a British Open title this summer, made eight birdies on Sunday, including three in a stretch of four straight holes (Nos, 4 through 7) that he won to take an early lead.
The two were even before Morikawa hit his drive on the par-3 17th within 2 feet of the hole, setting up a birdie and giving him a one-point lead. Hovland, who began his round with an eagle on the first hole, got the half-point when he made his sixth birdie of the day on No. 18.
Morikawa paired with Dustin Johnson to win in the Friday foursome round and both the Saturday foursome and four-ball competitions. Johnson beat Paul Casey 1 up on Sunday to go 5-0 for the weekend, joining Arnold Palmer and just three others to ever achieve that.
It was another magical chapter for Morikawa, who already is a two-time major winner just 28 months after turning pro. But the year had its challenges, too.
He pulled a muscle in his lower back in the first round of the Tokyo Olympics and struggled for weeks afterward. He later explained his back healed but while compensating for it he created bad habits in his swing.
Morikawa took three weeks off after finishing 26th in the the Tour Championship and showed this week he had his health and game back in top shape.
Other Americans who won on Sunday were Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler (who took down world No. 1 Jon Rahm 4 and 3), Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who pushed the team’s point total to 19.
American Jordan Spieth halved his match with Tommy Fleetwood.
Europe got just two victories on Sunday, courtesy of Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.
Cover photo of Collin Morikawa and girlfriend Katherine Zhu by Kyle Terada, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo