Four key decisions that paved way to U.S. victory
KOHLER, Wis. – The American press conference celebration was befitting for one of the most dominant performances in recent Ryder Cup history.
After a narrow victory, you might sneak in a sip of champagne. But the U.S. won the 43rd Ryder Cup in epic fashion, posting a 19-9 win that marked the largest margin of victory since Continental Europe began participating in 1979. It’s the type of performance that requires a sizable celebration, and the Americans delivered by bringing a few beverages (not to mention a cigar) into the press room.
The difference between the two teams this week might be wide enough to span Lake Michigan. There’s no single decision from U.S. Captain Steve Stricker, or one miscue from European Captain Padraig Harrington, that tilted the balance definitively in the direction of the home team. But here’s a look at some of the defining moments, outcomes and calls that paved the way for a historic American win as the U.S. Team recaptured the Ryder Cup for just the third time since 2000:
The U.S. Captain assembled the strongest team in Ryder Cup history thanks in part to some well-placed selections. A few of his six picks (guys like Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau) were no-brainers. But he hit it out of the park by including rookies Daniel Berger, Harris English and Scottie Scheffler, each of whom contributed at least a point and authored several emotional highlights throughout the week. Scheffler in particular was a revelation, teaming with DeChambeau in Four-Balls before dispatching with world No. 1 Jon Rahm in a Singles upset.
Ushering in a new era
With six rookies on this U.S. Team, there was no shying away from giving the new guys plenty of reps. But instead of using them sparingly or joining them with veterans, Stricker leaned into the notion that this year’s roster signaled a new era in the biennial competition. He led with strength, even if that meant pairing together rookies like Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, and that decision produced immediate points. He continued to lean on some of the younger players on the youngest team in recent history, and time and again they answered the call. When 24-year-old Collin Morikawa, the youngest of the six rookies and 12 U.S. Team members, notched the clinching half-point, it was an emphatic statement that a new batch of American talent has arrived – and that they were the primary reason the U.S. reclaimed the Cup.
Let Bryson be Bryson
After DeChambeau endured a difficult Ryder Cup debut three years ago, there were questions about how he would perform at Whistling Straits – and how much the U.S. Team could expect from him. Stricker wisely saved him for Four-Balls, a reversal from 2018 when he only played Foursomes, and allowed DeChambeau to soak up the energy from the home crowd and use it to his advantage. The result was a major champion turning into something of a showman, driving the first green on Sunday and uncorking a memorable 417-yard drive during his first match Friday. After not winning a match in Paris, DeChambeau went undefeated (2-0-1) this week. He clearly benefited both from the partisan environment and from Stricker putting him in the best position possible to let his high-variance game shine brightly.
Stick with the game plan
After a hot start, there’s always a temptation to keep it rolling. The U.S. won three of the first four points Friday morning, at which point Stricker wouldn’t have been criticized if he decided to trot out the same combination of pairings for the afternoon Four-Ball session.
But the most prepared U.S. Team in recent memory had also done considerable homework on how to align the pairings, and Stricker stuck to his guns. He wasn’t afraid to break up winning duos like Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, or Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa. More often than not, those players picked up additional points with their new partners as the Americans increased their lead every chance they got. It led to a situation where U.S. Team members felt confident regardless of the name that was next to them on the scoreboard, and it importantly set the stage for multiple pairing combinations at future Ryder Cups. The U.S. didn’t need to rely on one or two slam-dunk duos to get to 14 points this week, and they likely won’t require it two years from now in Italy.