September 27, 2021
United States 19 Europe 9
On paper, according to the Golf World Ranking, this was the strongest US Ryder Cup team in modern history. The US team has been heavy favorites in the past, but the European squad always seemed to rise to the occasion and play better than the Americans. This time they did not have the firepower or skill to turn the tide on a dominant US group. It was a mismatch from the start and I believe the Europeans could sense it from the beginning.
Captain Steve Stricker had the luxury of picking six of the twelve players on the United States squad, while European Captain Padraig Harrington could only choose three of his twelve. Many of the European team had built up points early in the qualifying cycle and were not playing particularly well coming into the Ryder Cup. The American team had players that were still going strong after the FedEx Cup championship, while only four of the European stars made the final 30 for the FedEx Tour Championship. Lee Westwood has had an excellent career, but has never won on American soil and at 48 years old is not a scary opponent as he used to be. Ian Poulter emotionally was there this week, but that could not hide the fact that he has not been a consistent ball striker lately and a player that could be counting on, and this week he was a weakest link. Tommy Fleetwood was a force to be reckoned with three years ago, but since that time he has faded back to mediocracy. He let his team down in clutch situations this week. Matt Fitzpatrick is a nice player, but so far in this professional career he hasn't shown the promise that was there a few years ago. Rory McIlroy was missing the first two days. No clutch shots or putts and went winless in his partnered team competition and for the first time was benched in the four-ball session. Inconsistency has been Rory's problem all year and unfortunately this week it just wasn't there.
I believe only Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, and Rory McIlroy from the European squad would have made the US team, if they were eligible. The final score was lopsided, but it could've been worse. Whistling Straits Golf Course was a great venue for a match play competition as it favored accurate ball striking and long driving. Putting, in all Ryder Cup competition is important, but this course made it less critical. Skill getting to the green was rewarded and many times par was a winning score. The US had the better ball strikers and it wore away on the Europeans. A refreshing change has occurred in the United States team makeup. It has become younger. Six young players made their Ryder Cup debuts. All of them showed that the stage was not too big for them and all performed admirably. Dustin Johnson was the "old" man on the team at 37, while the European team had four players in their 40's and only four in their 20's. On the American side, we had eight players in their 20's and three more 32 years and under! The future is very bright for the Red, White and Blue, while the Europeans need to look at new younger faces to improve their chances.
The Ryder Cup is special; you can see it on the players' faces and in their voices when trying to explain what it means to them. This year was lopsided, but don't expect it to be that way in Rome in 2023. Emotions, partisan fans, and home course advantage play a big part in determining the outcome. That's what makes this a unique event and so fun to watch. The US was great and they rightfully celebrated in style. Maybe it's a sign of what's to come?