Ryder Cup One Year Later: Scheffler ascent highlights evolution of U.S. Team
One year later, it’s a little quieter on the shores of Lake Michigan.
The grandstands have come down. The celebratory champagne dried long ago. The patriotic cheers that reverberated across the Whistling Straits fairways and greens now echo only as memories.
It’s been 365 days since the U.S. capped off a dominant victory at the 43rd Ryder Cup, defeating Team Europe by a 19-9 tally, but the effects of the historic American romp have been seen and felt across the last 12 months – with no better example than the current world No. 1.
Even by his own admission, Scottie Scheffler was the last man in the door for Steve Stricker’s squad last year. At that point winless on the PGA Tour, Scheffler was viewed as a bright product awaiting a breakthrough. That watershed broke in a big way over the course of 2022, but his run up the rankings undoubtedly has roots in his stellar performance at Whistling Straits.
“I think the team atmosphere and playing in front of so many people, that was the biggest stage I’d ever competed on..."
“I think the team atmosphere and playing in front of so many people, that was the biggest stage I’d ever competed on, and probably still is pretty close to the biggest stage,” Scheffler said. “I think probably having the vote of my peers was definitely a huge kind of confidence – I think there were a few guys that really wanted me on the team, and I was able to perform well under that immense pressure.”
Looking at Scheffler as currently constituted, it’s hard to envision him flying under the radar as he did last year in Wisconsin. He added four wins this spring, capped by his maiden major victory at the Masters, and was recently voted PGA Tour Player of the Year by his peers. He has been the top-ranked player in the world since March and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Scheffler attributes much of his recent growth to his week at Whistling Straits, where he went 2-0-1 as Stricker’s final selection. The standout performance came on Sunday, when he took out reigning U.S. Open champ Jon Rahm in Singles’ play. The result may have gotten lost in the tide of red on the final day, as the U.S. closed out a record-breaking margin of victory, but much like Rahm gained a boost from beating Tiger Woods in Singles at the 2018 Ryder Cup in France, so too Scheffler gleaned a little extra from taking down one of Europe’s top players.
“It’s always a little bit different when you prepare for those moments, but then when you feel what it’s like in the heat of battle, and when you go home and practice, you’re actually able to prepare for that because you know exactly how it feels on the biggest stage,” Scheffler said. “I think going into this year I had that experience and I knew what it felt like in those moments, and I was able to perform well.”
“I bet if you ask Scottie, he’d say last year’s Ryder Cup did wonders for him this year,” added Jordan Spieth. “You see that trend a lot of times of guys who come out and play really well and win important matches and go on to use that as fuel.”
While Scheffler’s leap post-Whistling Straits was the most pronounced, he wasn’t the only American to parlay team success into individual accolades. Justin Thomas, who went 2-1-1 in last year’s matches, added a second major title when he lifted the Wanamaker Trophy after winning a playoff at Southern Hills in May. Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele, both of whom were notably missing some individual hardware when they were added as picks last year, have made up for that in a big way by winning a combined five times since the spring. Spieth added a victory in April and has not given back any ground from last year’s resurgence.
One year after Whistling Straits also means one year until Marco Simone makes its debut as a Ryder Cup host, and the countdown to Italy is well and truly on. Those who were on the American team in Wisconsin remain eager to qualify for U.S. Captain Zach Johnson’s squad, which will look to back up last year’s standout performance and break a 30-year drought in Europe in the process.
Others that watched from home are no doubt energized by the prospect of enjoying a Scheffler-like ascent, building on team success within an individual game. But the greatest lure, both for those who were in Wisconsin and those who hope to build on the legacy of last year’s team, is to play on – as Scheffler described – one of the biggest stages the game has to offer.
“There’s no other feeling like it”
“There’s no other feeling like it,” said Collin Morikawa, who clinched the decisive half-point as a rookie at Whistling Straits. “You get one of these every other year. You don’t want that to drag. You do everything it takes.”
One year from now, the cheers will roar once more in a new corner of the world. The memories of Whistling Straits remain fresh, and the push to have a hand in the next result – to put an individual stamp on golf’s greatest team event – is as strong as ever. Just ask the man who has gone from being the last in the team room to the best in the world.
“Starting with last year at the Ryder Cup, it’s definitely been a lot of fun. And winning is a lot more fun than losing,” Scheffler said. “So I definitely don’t want to be on the losing side of any of these squads.”