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On the shores of Lake Michigan, the tide turned in a dramatic way.
Team USA, downtrodden for years, made good on a dominating start in the Ryder Cup by closing out Europe in commanding style Sunday with a 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits. The 10-point differential is the most lopsided since the tournament switched to a 28-match format in 1979.
Collin Morikawa secured the victory for the Americans on the second-to-last hole of his singles match against Viktor Hovland. The home needed a half-point to hit the magic number of 14½, so all Morikawa needed to do was tie.
Morikawa nearly aced the 222-yard, par-three 17th hole, leaving himself a three-foot putt to go one up with a hole remaining — thereby guaranteeing at worst a tie, and the requisite half-point. He sank that birdie putt and pumped his fist in triumph as thousands of spectators erupted in cheers. He calmly walked off the green with arms aloft.
“You can feel the fans,” Morikawa said. “You really take that energy in. And obviously having a home-crowd advantage was huge this week and using that momentum on our side.”
There were seven matches still being played when Morikawa and Hovland finished in a somewhat anticlimactic tie, but those were only to determine how thorough the drubbing would be.
“I don’t think it’s just a win,” said Morikawa, 24, of La Cañada Flintridge and a two-time major champion. “It was a dominating win.”
That was a welcome change for the Americans who, despite having a considerable edge in average world rankings, had lost four of the last five Ryder Cups.
This one was no contest, as the Steve Stricker-captained home team ruled the windswept links course on Friday and Saturday — in both alternating-shot and four-ball play — and came into Sunday needing just 3½ points out of 12 individual matches.
After a week of all type of weather conditions, Sunday’s matches were played under skies that were steely but dry. The only need for rain suits? The Americans uncorking, shaking and spraying giant bottles of champagne on the winner’s platform.
“It's not just the strongest U.S. team I've seen, but they all played well this week, to a man, everybody performed and turned up this week,” said England’s Lee Westwood, a veteran of 12 Ryder Cups. “Looks like they are a team.”
Ten of the 12 American players scored at least 1½ points, a record for this era.
Dustin Johnson, who at 37 was the oldest member of Team USA, proved unbeatable. He joined Larry Nelson and Francesco Molinari as the only players to go 5-0 in matches in the Ryder Cup’s 28-point format. Arnold Palmer and Gardner Dickinson both went 5-0 in 1967.
It was a marked turnaround for Johnson, who went 1-4 at the Ryder Cup in Paris three years ago.
Jon Rahm, ranked No. 1 in the world, came into Sunday at 4-0 but was toppled by U.S. rookie Scottie Scheffler, who birdied his first four holes on his way to a 4-and-3 victory.
“Yeah, what can you do when somebody has five birdies in the first six holes?” Rahm said. “It's not like I was playing bad golf.”
Patrick Cantlay of Long Beach, a former UCLA standout, contributed with a 4-and-2 win over Shane Lowry. Morikawa, Cantlay, Scheffler and others are part of an overwhelming wave of young American players who are reshaping the game.
“This is definitely different,” Cantlay said. “I mean, I woke up this morning and I was trying to tell the guys — this is going to be the next era of the Ryder Cup team for the U.S. side. We have a lot of young guys and I think they are going to be on teams for a long time.”
After the first two days, the Americans enjoyed an 11-5 advantage — and no team had ever overcome a deficit that large.
Although there was a lot of hand-wringing from the Americans about how the long-hitting, puff-chested Bryson DeChambeau would fit in, that polarizing star proved a key component to the victory. He and Scheffler combined to win their four-ball match Saturday, and on Sunday DeChambeau beat Sergio Garcia to put the U.S. to within a half-point of victory.
“Even though we’re all competitors this week,” DeChambeau said, “we can all be friends and have amazing unity.”
Whereas Rahm lost for the first time all week, teammate Rory McIlroy posted his first victory, snapping a five-match losing streak dating to Paris in 2018. The four-time major champion from Northern Ireland beat San Diego’s Xander Schauffele 3 and 2.
“My spirits were lifted quickly after I lost,” Schauffele said. “So I think it's the fastest I ever got over losing something, just happy to have all the boys carrying me along.”
The big picture is in sharp focus for the 32-year old McIlroy.
“Guys like Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, you know, the sort of heartbeat of that U.S. team, they really bought into the team aspect of Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups,” he said. “And having guys like that on the team, yeah, they are going to be formidable opposition from now until I'm probably not playing Ryder Cups, whenever that is, in hopefully 20 years' time.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.