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Young Americans send message to Europe in Ryder Cup rout

Sep 26, 2021, 4:10 PM
Team USA players celebrate after the Ryder Cup matches at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Sunday,...

Team USA players celebrate after the Ryder Cup matches at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Sheboygan, Wis. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — The Americans won back the Ryder Cup and perhaps a whole lot more Sunday, sending a strong message with their youngest team by giving Europe its worst loss ever.

They never lost a session. They rode the experience of Dustin Johnson, who won all five of his matches and leaned on six Ryder Cup newcomers who combined for a 14-4-3 record.

Daniel Berger won the final hole in the final match for the final point and a 19-9 victory, breaking by a half-point the record margin since Europe became part of the Ryder Cup in 1979.

“This is a new era,” U.S. captain Steve Stricker said. “These guys are young. They want it. They’re motivated. They came here determined to win. I could see it in their eyes.”

And he could see it on the scoreboards across Whistling Straits, filled with American red all afternoon in a performance that was dominant from the opening session Friday morning.

Scottie Scheffler, one of six Ryder Cup rookies for the U.S., took down the No. 1 player in the world with a 4-and-3 victory over Jon Rahm. Scheffler won the opening four holes and birdied five of the first six. He was among three rookies who were unbeaten this week.

The clinching blow came from Collin Morikawa, at 24 the youngest player on the team and already a two-time major champion. He made a 3-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that assured the Americans at least the 14 1/2 points they needed.

They wanted more.

“I woke up this morning and I was trying to tell the guys, ‘Let’s get to 20 points,’ because this is going to be the next era of Ryder Cup team for the U.S. side,” Patrick Cantlay said after he completed an unbeaten week with a win over Shane Lowry.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys. I think they’re going to be on teams for a long time, and I wanted to send a message.”

Tony Finau had said on the eve of these matches that this was “the big one” because Europe had won nine of the last 12, and the Americans had so many fresh faces without any lasting scars from watching Europe celebrate so much over the years. It was a chance to change the culture, and this was a massive step.

The gallery saved one of its loudest cheers for Stricker, the Wisconsin native who has been at the helm of two blowouts. He guided the U.S. team to a 19-11 victory in the Presidents Cup in 2017, and added his signature piece at Whistling Straits.

Johnson became the first American since Larry Nelson in 1979 to go 5-0, completing his perfect week by beating Paul Casey in a match he never trailed.

Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick and Bernd Wiesberger all failed to win a point. Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, part of the backbone of European experience, didn’t win a match until singles, and by then it was too late.

The Americans were young, yes, and very good, with four of the top five in the world ranking. And they finally played like it. Those four players — Johnson, Morikawa, Cantlay and Xander Schauffele — combined for a 14-1-2 record.

“It’s not just the strongest U.S. team I’ve seen, but they all played well this week,” Lee Westwood said. “Everybody performed and turned up this week. Looks like they are a team.”

Stricker wasn’t the only one in tears.

McIlroy led Europe off again and gave Schauffele his first loss of the week. It wasn’t nearly enough. All day along the shores of Lake Michigan, the outcome was inevitable.

McIlroy teared up in his interview when talking about how much the Ryder Cup means to him.

“I’ve never really cried or got emotional over what I’ve done as an individual. I couldn’t give a (expletive),” he said on NBC. “But this team … to see Sergio (Garcia) break records, to see Jon Rahm come into his own this week, to see one of my best friends, Shane Lowry, make his Ryder Cup debut, all that. It’s phenomenal.

“I’m disappointed that I didn’t contribute more this week,” he said. “But in two years’ time, we’ll go again and give it another so. Sorry for swearing, as well.”

As much as this was about a new generation of Americans, this looked to be an aging team of Europeans. They brought winning experience, but not nearly enough form.

Garcia set the Ryder Cup record with 25 matches won in his career. Rahm was the star for Europe, living up to his billing as the No. 1 player by making so many big putts.

Both lost in singles — Garcia to Bryson DeChambeau, while Rahm ran into Scheffler, who delivered big moments of his own this week.

There was little Europe could have done. This U.S. team was loaded and played like it.

“They had a mission this week,” Stricker said. “You could tell.”

The next step is winning on the road, which the Americans haven’t done since 1993. Europe still has an 11-9-1 advantage since the Ryder Cup was expanded in 1979 to include the continent.

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