It’s hard to think of anything American team captain Steve Stricker didn’t accomplish this week at Whistling Straits.
First and foremost, his side won the Ryder Cup, trouncing the Europeans 19-9 in a one-sided affair.
His players also set a bucket full of records, both individually and as a team.
He cut Patrick Reed, the cancerous team member no one was sad to see left on the sidelines, despite his winning record.
He even managed to bring Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka together, highlighted by their victorious bro-hug embrace.
Still, as is his way, he downplayed his role.
“So a lot of these guys have played a lot of golf with each other,” Stricker said, trying to simplify something that can’t be simplified. “They pair up with each other. It's a special group of guys.”
That it is. And perhaps it wasn’t Stricker’s doing entirely, but the biggest accomplishment the soft-spoken Cheesehead can take credit for is laying a foundation for future Ryder Cups. This U.S. team is exceptionally talented, remarkably young and, most importantly, the members get along.
Gone is the talk that the American players can’t unite for a single cause, that the team room too often is as uncomfortable a dentist’s chair. These Yanks really do get along. Schauffele likes Morikawa. Morikawa likes Finau. Finau likes Scheffler. Well, you get the picture.
“A lot of young guys, and I think the most important thing for the U.S. team is a lot of young guys that are great players have bought into the Ryder Cup,” observed Rory McIlroy. “I think that was probably missing in previous generations.”
Of course this is all easy when you’re winning but it doesn’t seem as if this lineup will lose anytime soon. The first-timers performed, with four of them going undefeated. The oldest guy on the team, Dustin Johnson, went undefeated. Everyone got in on the party with not one player getting shut out.
“Whatever their prep was, they did a good job,” said Euro captain Padraig Harrington of the spanking his team received, “and they came out and started well and kept the momentum going. It was just a tough one to overcome.”
On the other side of the table, it’s hard not to think that the great European run has come to an end. The next time the Ryder Cup will be held, 2023 in Rome, Lee Westwood will be on the Champions Tour. Ian Poulter will be 47, Paul Casey 46, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose 43. Who will replace them? Perhaps some candidates will step forward in the ensuing years but right now, the pipeline looks a bit dry.
“I hate this tournament,” said Westwood. “It makes you so emotional, but that's what makes it great as well.”
It’s fair to say that the American side may have a tougher time winning the next Presidents Cup than the Ryder Cup. It’s easier to find International team members near the top of the Official World Golf Ranking than prospective European team players.
But that’s for next year. Right now, the Americans can celebrate a win, a big win. And there’s likely a lot more of them to come.