SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Julie Crenshaw has seen a lot of Ryder Cups, but even she found herself in awe of this one. Sitting beside her husband, Ben — who played in four Cups for the U.S., winning two, and captained the 1999 Battle of Brookline team — on the 16th green as the event wound down and the celebration wound up, she gazed up at the scoreboard.
“Wow,” she breathed. “Look at all the red.”
Indeed, the U.S. led so many matches Sunday that the only worry was logistical: Where would they clinch the Ryder Cup? When Bryson DeChambeau closed out Sergio Garcia? When Justin Thomas finished dusting Tyrrell Hatton? When Dustin Johnson capped his phenomenal week (5–0, and the high scorer with five points) by beating Paul Casey?
In the end, it was 24-year-old rookie Collin Morikawa who sealed the most dominant performance since the Ryder Cup went to this format in 1979. He made birdie on the par-3 17th to take a 1-up lead on Viktor Hovland, guaranteeing he would at least halve the match and give the U.S. 14½ points.
That was a fitting way to end it: After decades of U.S. underperformance in this event, reporters and fans had begun to wonder aloud whether the Americans could overcome their demons and beat Europe. On Thursday, Tony Finau scoffed at that idea. He pointed to the six rookies who made up the team, including Morikawa, who has already won two majors. Only half the team had lost the Ryder Cup before, and just two — Johnson and Jordan Spieth — had lost twice.
“We have a whole new team,” Finau said. “We have a team with no scar tissue.”
Instead, the Americans wanted to leave scars. Patrick Cantlay, one of the rookies, told NBC he told his teammates Sunday morning he wanted to get to 20 points, to set the tone for “the next era” of the Ryder Cup. They finished with 19.
The U.S. took possession of the Ryder Cup Sunday, but they basically won it Friday and Saturday. The Americans entered Sunday with an insurmountable lead of 11-5, and they knew it.
A revamped selection process meant that the Americans boasted the Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16 and 20 in the world. Every U.S. player contributed at least a point. The average age was 29 years — the youngest U.S. team since the inaugural one in 1927. The U.S. rookies finished 14-4-3. Three of them — Cantlay, Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler — went unbeaten.
“It didn’t feel like they were rookies,” said Johnson afterward.
On Sunday, Cantlay faced Shane Lowry, arguably the best European player of the first two days, and birdied three of the first six holes to take a three-up lead. Cantlay won, 4 and 2.
Scheffler, 25, was the greenest man on the U.S. team; he’s still waiting for his first Tour win. He is normally stoic on the course, but he burst into tears when captain Steve Stricker called to tell him he’d made the team. On Sunday, Scheffler was so unintimidated by his match with the No. 1 player in the world, Jon Rahm, that he birdied the first four holes and never looked back. Scheffler won, 4 and 3
A few minutes later, Scheffler saw Ben Crenshaw on the 16th green and gushed that he had spent all week watching Crenshaw’s highlights.
Scheffler’s wife, Meredith Scudder, pretended to cringe. “It’s like, can we watch something else?” she said, laughing.
They could not. Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night: all Ryder Cup highlights.
Morikawa spent his week differently. He is not a historian of the game. Before every major, he is asked about his favorite moments in the past, and before every major, he demurs. The same thing happened before the Ryder Cup. He said he had watched them but could not point to any highlights that stood out. He also declined to offer a theory about why the U.S. has struggled recently. “What's happened in the past, I couldn't have had any control of that,” he said. “I was whatever years old.” (That’s 21 for Paris and 17 for Gleneagles.) He was so unbothered by the hype here that he admitted after the first foursomes session that he’d been more nervous as an amateur at the Walker Cup.
Daniel Berger, 28, another rookie, felt loose enough to take to the first tee with Thomas on Saturday when Stricker held them out of the afternoon sessions. They led “U-S-A” chants and threw cans of beer to fans. A few people tossed them back and encouraged the players to chug them … which they promptly did.
The players seemed relaxed all weekend, genuinely appearing to enjoy one another’s presence. For all the pre-event discussion of how their squabbles would affect the team, DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka did not cause any drama with one another. They did both engage in childish behavior on Saturday, but they did so individually — Koepka swore at officials who declined to grant him relief, and DeChambeau laid down his putter to indicate to his opponents that they should have conceded his short putt. But they are who they are and this is the Ryder Cup.
Stricker managed the personalities well, pairing DeChambeau with Scheffler, whom he has known since they were both Texas amateurs. “I think everybody has an opinion on him,” Scheffler said before the event began. “I have an opinion on him, as well. I think he's a fantastic guy.” They seemed to pump each other up and calm each other down on the course. After their second fourball win, DeChambeau credited Scheffler with “having that good-minded spirit around all the time.”
There are no guarantees for the U.S. when the teams reconvene at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club near Rome in two years, but if either side has the mental advantage based on history, it will be the U.S. This performance was that dominant.
Just as important: The era of U.S. dysfunction appears to be over. It took far too long. From Hal Sutton’s famously disastrous pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in 2004 to Mickelson’s unseemly calling-out of captain Tom Watson in 2014 to Patrick Reed’s sour grumbling about being split from Spieth in 2018, the U.S. has given plenty of examples of how not to be a team.
Those days seemed far away on Sunday. At their victory press conference, the Americans gently heckled one another — Spieth at DeChambeau’s silent treatment to the media, Thomas at Johnson’s advanced age of 37, nearly everyone at Schauffele’s inebriation. They spent almost as much time laughing as they did answering questions. Thomas orchestrated a public hug between DeChambeau and Koepka. Winning solves most anything.
Now the U.S. has more than just the Ryder Cup. It has the sturdy backbone of a champion. Whatever the exact makeup of the team in 2023, the bulk of it will come from this year’s team. With every successive Ryder Cup, some combination of Cantlay, Morikawa, Spieth and Thomas will improve their stature with their fellow Americans.
“I think this is unfinished business,” said Spieth. “It’s one thing to win it here. It’s a lot easier to do so. If we play like we did this week, the score will look the same over there. And that’s what we’re here for.”
The next era has arrived. And it’s wearing red.
More Ryder Cup Coverage on Morning Read
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- 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
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