Team Europe dominates all three days to avenge 2021's letdown at Ryder Cup
Two years ago, after the Americans romped to a 19-9 victory over the Europeans at Whistling Straits, it seemed easy to think there was a new era of U.S. dominance in team golf. It was a young team, filled with studs who appeared unbeatable. It would be a long time before this machine was stopped from rolling over opponents, many thought.
But fast forward to Rome and that great American apparatus, a product of the big task force of 2015, sputtered to a screeching halt with the wheels falling off at the starting line. A powerful performance by a European team that seemed to be in perfect synch for all three days claimed the Cup for the seventh time in the last 11 editions of the event and once again sent the U.S. thinkers searching for answers.
“Not many people gave us a chance, I don’t think,” said Luke Donald, the European captain, whose team capped a great week with a 6-6 score in the Sunday Singles. “Especially after two years ago. Well we proved them wrong.”
The easy answer to this latest win is simply that the Europeans played better. They were better off the tee, better into the greens and better with their putters. But there’s more to this latest American beat down, a five-point victory of 16.5 to 11.5. It’s about what the European side did leading up to the event, out-thinking, out-preparing and out-doing its opponents. And it’s about how they continually seem to be more close-knit than their opponents, despite coming from a variety of countries.
So what is this magic they seem to keep brewing and what made it work this time?
First off, the best players on Team Europe were the best players. Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy were the three top golfers in the competition, going a combined 9-2-3.
On the other hand, Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, managed just two half points for the U.S. He also lost his two Foursomes matches, one of them by a Ryder Cup record 9&7 margin.
The players selected by U.S. captain Zach Johnson didn’t fare much better. Sam Burns recorded just a single point as did Collin Morikawa. Rickie Fowler was skunked in his two outings, while Justin Thomas, a controversial captain’s selection, managed a win and a tie, but finished the week as the worst putter in the competition statistically.
Europe’s picks were far more successful with every one of them earning at least a half point. Tommy Fleetwood went 3-1-0 and clinched the cup in his singles match against Fowler. Nicolai Hojgaard was the only European player who did not win a match.
There were other factors that may have played some role in the victory for Europe. The setup of the golf course was aimed at keeping short irons out of the Americans’ hands after statistics showed that to be to their advantage.
There was also the home crowd, boisterous and sometimes over the edge, but that works both ways as the Europeans know only too well from their visits to America.
Perhaps the biggest intangible, however, is the bonds of the team. The players are united in a way that seems to go beyond golf. It could be from the roots as a constant underdog (although they were the slight betting favourite going into this week); a group of Davids trying to slay the Goliath Americans.
“We’re united by our culture, we’re united by a generation of players who have come before us and this is our time,” said Donald. “I gave them a good culture to succeed and laid out a plan on why I thought they were going to win but really it was just staying out of the way. They had to play well and they did the job.”
McIlroy was a little more direct in his description of what makes the team tick.
“We take the piss out of each other,” he laughed. “We can go in and make fun of each other and nobody really cares.”
They cared two years ago of course. Just in a different way. That’s when McIlroy broke down and gave a teary statement about how difficult it was to lose the Ryder Cup and to do so by being pummelled by the other guys.
“That score line. . . 19-9. That hurt, it really did,” he admitted. “This wasn’t about revenge, this was about redemption and showing what we could do.”
The next time will be more difficult. The event heads to Bethpage Black and a notoriously loud and partisan New York crowd. The fans will taunt and jeer and no doubt play a part in who raises the cup. This time the Americans will have the edge.
“I think one of the biggest accomplishments in golf is winning an away Ryder Cup,” McIlroy stated. “And that’s what we’re going to do at Bethpage.”
For now, a well-earned celebration is the reward. Over the next two years, it’s up to the American side to start looking for answers.