KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) -The United States, led by a new generation of golfers, reclaimed the Ryder Cup on Sunday, thrashing holders Europe 19-9 to herald what could be an era of domination by the Americans at the biennial competition.
With half the 12-man U.S. team comprised of rookies there were concerns as to whether the newcomers would be able to survive in the gladiatorial arena that is the Ryder Cup against a European squad packed with cut-throat veterans.
But youthful energy trumped experience as the European old guard failed to deliver against the American young guns.
“This is a new era for USA golf,” declared U.S. captain Steve Stricker. “They are young. They come with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of game.
“They are just so good.”
While Europe had four players in their 40s the United States had none, with all but three members in their 20s.
And the Americans were not just young but talented, the debutantes making a major contribution on the scoreboard going 14-4-3.
Fittingly it was the youngest member of the squad, 24-year-old Collin Morikawa securing the winning point.
Having romped to a commanding 11-5 advantage after the foursome and fourball sessions, the Americans entered Sunday’s singles needing just 3-1/2 points to reach the target required to hoist the little gold trophy.
Morikawa ended Europe’s faint hopes of a comeback when he birdied the 17th to go one up in his match with Viktor Hovland, guaranteeing the United States a deciding half-point.
The two-time major winner would make it official a few minutes later with a par on 18 to end the match in a tie, sending a thundering chant of “USA, USA” rumbling across Whistling Straits.
“To clinch this and bring it back on home soil feels so good,” said Morikawa. “The guys pulled through; we didn’t let up.”
The 19-9 rout was the largest margin of victory ever in the current 28-point Ryder Cup format, which began in 1979.
It was just the second time in six competitions and third in 10 that the United States had claimed golf’s most coveted team title.
Never before in 42 previous Ryder Cups had a team come back from more than a four-point deficit on the final day and Padraig Harrington’s men, while defiant, never threatened to make history.
Whistling Straits provided a stunning backdrop and perfect party spot for 40,000 mostly flag-waving American fans, who flooded into the links-style Pete Dye jewel on the Lake Michigan shoreline on Sunday, ready to celebrate.
Morikawa sent the party into overdrive but it would be some time before all his team mates could join in. Seven matches were still out on the course to be completed with the margin of victory the only thing left to be decided.
Given their commanding lead, there were worries about a lack of intensity by the U.S. players, but a raucous crowd on the first tee assured their batteries were fully charged heading out.
Needing something magical, Harrington turned to a player who had so far provided little of it at Whistling Straits, tasking a winless Rory McIlroy with sparking a European fight back.
McIlroy, who laboured so badly in the foursomes and fourballs that Harrington stood down the Northern Irishman for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, was first out against Olympic champion Xander Schauffele and found a spark, going 2up after four holes and never trailing in a 3&2 win.
But behind McIlroy, an American red wave was forming on the scoreboard as Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry, who had accounted for most of the European points in the foursomes and fourballs, failed to fire.
Patrick Cantlay defeated Lowry 4&2 and Scottie Scheffler slayed Europe’s best Rahm 4&3.
Scheffler, another rookie and captain’s pick, was handed the daunting task of taking on the world number one and did not wilt from the challenge, going 4up on the Spaniard after four holes and never letting him back into the match.
Big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau, the crowd favourite with his monster drives, pounded Garcia into submission 3&2 to leave the United States a half-point from mission accomplished.
Who would get that crucial point was a toss-up between several matches, but Morikawa got the honour when he nearly aced the 17th, leaving a short tap-in that secured nothing short of a draw.
“They got it right, whatever their plan was, they got
it right this week,” said Harrington. “They would have been tough to beat at the best of times, let alone when they are at top form.
“It’s a great win for them.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating; Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Clare Fallon, Toby Davis and Lincoln Feast.)