Reliance on rookies pays off for U.S. in Ryder Cup blowout
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — With rookies making up half of its roster, the United States laid waste to the notion that experience is essential to thriving in the Ryder Cup’s glaring spotlight.
The U.S. rolled to a 19-9 victory over Europe for just its fourth victory in its last 13 Ryder Cup competitions thanks in part to the performance of its six newcomers. Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay, Harris English, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler posted a combined 14-4-3 record in their Ryder Cup debuts.
“They have all played well in such big moments and big tournaments that it didn’t feel like they were rookies,” said 37-year-old Dustin Johnson, the oldest player on the U.S. team. “And they didn’t play like they were rookies. They stepped up to the plate and they all wanted it.”
U.S. captain Steve Stricker showed enough faith in his rookies that he had four of them play the first five singles matches Sunday at Whistling Straits.
“I mean, that’s unheard of,” Cantlay said. “And those guys are performing. Everybody gets along. The atmosphere is light, but I know everyone has that killer instinct and we are going to bring that to future Cups.”
While the U.S. rookies starred, the European newcomers struggled. Europe’s three Ryder Cup rookies – Shane Lowry, Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger – went a combined 1-8-2.
Rather than wilting under the pressure of representing their country, the U.S. team’s Ryder Cup rookies blossomed. They backed up the comments of teammate Tony Finau, who suggested beforehand that the U.S. team’s inexperience might be more of a help than a hindrance.
Finau said Thursday that “we have a team with no scar tissue” because it featured so many players who weren’t part of the U.S. team’s recent Ryder Cup losses. Finau said he saw a roster full of players who were confident rather than wide-eyed.
For the next three days, the rest of the world saw that as well.
The U.S. team’s Ryder Cup rookies went 11-2-2 in team competition Friday and Saturday before going 3-2-1 in Sunday’s singles play.
And it was a newcomer who made perhaps the biggest statement of all Sunday.
Scheffler had the toughest singles assignment of any U.S. player. He was facing the world’s top-ranked golfer in Jon Rahm, who went 3-0-1 in team competition.
Rahm never had much of a chance. Scheffler birdied each of the first four holes and posted a 4-and-3 victory.
“I just kept the pressure on him the whole day,” said Scheffler, who also went 1-0-1 in team play.
Cantlay and Morikawa also were undefeated with identical 3-0-1 records as they clearly enjoyed the Ryder Cup atmosphere.
The normally stoic Cantlay showed plenty of emotion while making encouraging gestures to an adoring crowd during his 4-and-2 singles victory over Shane Lowry. At one point, Cantlay put his hand to his ear to ask for more cheers.
“In the moment and with the crowd behind me and feeling like everyone is totally on our side, which is what it felt like all week, it just makes it so much easier,” Cantlay said. “And knowing that I’m playing not just for myself but for the rest of the guys, it just makes everything that much more important.”
Morikawa was 3-0 in team competition before tying Hovland on Sunday. He clinched at least a tie with a birdie on No. 17, as his 221-yard drive left him just 3 foot from the cup on the par-3 hole.
His half-point got the team total to 14 ½, guaranteeing the U.S. would be wresting the Cup from Europe.
By the end of the day, the U.S. point total would go much higher.
“I don’t think it’s just a win,” Morikawa said. “I think this is a dominant win.”
The fact so many Ryder Cup rookies played such a large role in this rout suggests a potential signal a shift in this biennial event’s balance of power.
“This is a new era for USA golf,” Stricker said. “They are young. They come with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of game. They are just so good.”
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