It was the most dominant performance in Ryder Cup history, and like any resounding victory in any sport, execution played a far greater role in the outcome than the system or so-called winning formula. This wasn’t the offspring of some task force assigned to cure America’s match-play malaise after the Yanks got plastered by Europe seven years ago. There were no fiery speeches to inspire the troops, nor did U.S. captain Steve Stricker feel the need to push any magic buttons.
No odd lineups, no partnerships built on a hunch. This wasn’t a triumph of strategy. It was a testament to skill.
Armed with eight of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and four multiple-major champions, Uncle Sam’s youngest squad ever trounced the Euros by the largest margin since the Ryder Cup committed to a 28-point format in 1979. To double up on its overseas bully, then kick the extra point to boot, America’s 19-9 rout amounts to a statement of competitive conviction. Three days of brilliance could turn into 15 to 20 years of superiority. Suddenly, the glass is three-quarters full.
If a new dynasty is brewing, however, this same nucleus has to beat Europe in its backyard, which hasn’t happened since 1993. To help make that happen, the PGA of America should allocate six captain’s picks to all future skippers, as was the case with Stricker, instead of the four allotted prior to COVID-19. Not only do the extra selections create additional roster flexibility, they empower the pilot to take greater command of his airplane.
Without such latitude, it’s highly unlikely Stricker would have given a spot to Scottie Scheffler, who pulled off two semi-miracles at Whistling Straits: he thrashed Jon Rahm in singles and survived two afternoons with Bryson DeChambeau. Yes, DeChambeau and new BFF Brooks Koepka may have hugged things out Sunday evening, but that doesn’t mean anybody should have to spend 10 hours with the guy. Scheffler is totally collected and unaffected by the Brawny Brainiac’s weirdness. In other words, a perfect partner.
The biggest surprise last weekend was that a group of guys largely unaccustomed to Ryder Cup intensity not only beat the Euros, but whipped them like a bowl full of egg yolks. Team America’s future certainly looks quite bright, but the present doesn’t smell so bad, either.
Here are six other unexpected occurrences that made the 2021 Ryder Cup so memorable.
The Unsmiling (Northern) Irishman. Everybody and their mother in-law witnessed the struggles of Rory McIlroy, whose only win came as Europe’s leadoff hitter in singles. To see a truly terrific dude and still-imposing superstar driven to tears after a rough week was equal parts sad and poignant—a heroic show of emotion by an ultra-mega millionaire who clearly cares about more than all that money. McIlroy wanted so badly to help his teammates. Once he did, it was far too late.
The Indefatigable Sergio. He has been showing up and poisoning America’s Ryder Cup hopes for almost a quarter-century now, but this fall, Sergio Garcia entered the matches looking more like a nostalgic afterthought than a realistic factor. Europe skipper Padraig Harrington, whose relationship with the Spaniard has been fractious over the years, set aside his personal feelings and added Garcia to his roster. Once again, Sergio responded, playing some fabulous golf while winning all three of his partnerships with Rahm. His partner did most of the heavy lifting, but Garcia was hardly dead weight.
The Long-Lost friends. Justin Thomas came on late after a rough start, especially Friday morning, but Stricker’s decision to pair him with Jordan Spieth bore minimal fruit. Neither guy performed all that well—nothing close to the powerhouse duo many expected. Spieth still hasn’t won a singles matches in seven tries at the Ryder or Presidents Cup. Thomas gets frustrated far too easily, a trait unbefitting of one of the game’s best players. The U.S. didn’t need much from them in Wisconsin. It didn’t get much, either.
The Tall Texan. Scheffler bailed out DeChambeau on numerous occasions in their four-ball alliances, driving it a mile and holing a bunch of crucial putts before pounding Rahm on his own in the week’s biggest upset. You watch the guy and wonder why he still hasn’t won on the PGA Tour. It took David Duval a while, too. Scheffler will win a U.S. Open someday. If he can tidy up his short game, especially from the bunkers, he’ll become an annual contender at that little tournament held in Georgia every April.
The Undefeated. For all his talent and collection of career achievements, Dustin Johnson had never been a reliant resource in the biennial bouts vs. Europe. He arrived at Whistling Straits with a 7-9 career record. He left with a pretty nice champagne buzz and five victories in five starts, becoming just the fifth player in Ryder Cup history to win a match in every session. When it comes to high-end consistency over the last 10 years, no fellow American compares to DJ, which has frequently led to outrageous expectations. Every once in a while, the big fella surpasses them.
The Hug. Winning fixes everything. Even the year’s most puerile feud, which leaves us to wonder if DeChambeau and Koepka would have shared a warm embrace if the Yanks had gotten knocked off yet again. You might recall that Koepka and Johnson had some type of skirmish after the 2018 loss in France, the details of which have never been fully revealed. Three years and one 10-point victory later, Koepka clearly played the role of friendly aggressor at the Sunday night media gathering. He went with the double bro-hug and a few hearty slaps on DeChambeau’s back, a vast improvement from their half-ass sissy clinch during the on-course victory celebration.
How long will the love last? As is the case with America’s bid to flip its Ryder Cup fortunes upside-down, only time will tell. Not for nothing, time doesn’t talk much.
More Ryder Cup Coverage on Morning Read
- Parting Shots from a Ryder Cup Where U.S. was Always Two Steps Ahead
- 5 Mistakes Europe Made That Left Them Shorthanded
- Dishing Out Grades for Every Player's Performance
- Video: What Made This U.S. Team So Good?
- American Red Wave Washed Over Europe
- Rory Swears in Emotional Interview, Apologizes
- DJ is First American to go 5-0 Since 1979
- US Wins Back Cup in Dominant Fashion
- Readers Sound Off on Brooks Koepka's Cursing