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Ryder Cup 2021: This young American team could go on to dominate for years to come

·4-min read
Ryder Cup 2021: This young American team could go on to dominate for years to come

The last time the US Ryder Cup team featured neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson was their last win on European soil at the Belfry in 1993.

That is not to land the blame squarely on the shoulders of golf’s big two for so long but, too often, there has been reliance or at least hope that Woods and Mickelson would conjure up the same golfing magic they did week in, week out on the PGA Tour.

Instead, this time Woods’ one-time Ryder Cup playing partner and captain Steve Stricker, opted for youth and inexperience.

It wasn’t just that he had six rookies in his side but that he also leant heavily on them. Rookies made up half the players of a star-studded American team in the opening foursomes back on Friday where the hosts took a lead they never looked like diminishing.

In Patrick Cantlay, they had their first rookie to win four matches from four since 1979 while the least heralded of all the rookies, Scottie Scheffler, put the icing on the cake as he finally downed European talisman Jon Rahm. It was the first time an American player had beaten the World No1 in the Ryder Cup since 1991.

Former American Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was prescient as he spoke before a ball had even been struck. “You have six rookies who are unscarred,” he said. “And I think this American team has a chip on its shoulder.”

The message within the camp was that their past recent history in the event, including two home losses in 2012 and 2004, was very much a thing of the past, so too the suggestion they could not play as a team as had often appeared to be the case in the past.

Stricker seemed to harness them in just the right way. There were no rousing speeches or gimmicky videos to harness a team ethos, he simple told his players he had a faith they were considerably better than the opposition.

The USA team contained eight of the world’s ten top-ranked golfers (Getty Images)
The USA team contained eight of the world’s ten top-ranked golfers (Getty Images)

And they bought into it to such an extent that Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau – supposedly arched enemies if the way their relationship is portrayed is true – offered to play together. While that might have been fun, it wasn’t necessary, Stricker’s pairings across both foursomes and fourballs working to near perfection.

With eight of this team under the age of 30 in contrast to a European line-up with four fortysomethings in it, the signs are ominous for Team Europe in Rome in two years’ time.

Winning a Ryder Cup away from home is notoriously tough – one can be sure whoever captains Europe (most likely Lee Westwood), the fairways at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club will be far narrower with heavy rough for the US’ big hitters. In addition, the greens will be infinitely slower for a visiting team who putted superbly all week.

And yet, that might prove an insufficient deterrent. Even in celebration, the Americans suggested this was just the start of what could prove to be a period of dominance.

Jordan Spieth said: “I think that this is unfinished business. This was one of those first wins – we needed to win this one and I think it was a massive stepping stone for this team and the group that we have here that have really known each other since almost back to grade school to continue to try to work hard to be on these teams to go over there.

Patrick Cantlay, who won all of his matches, was one of a number of impressive Ryder Cup rookies (Getty Images)
Patrick Cantlay, who won all of his matches, was one of a number of impressive Ryder Cup rookies (Getty Images)

“It’s one thing to win it over here and it is a lot easier to do so and it is harder to win over there. If we play like we did this week, the score will look the same over there in a couple of years, and that’s what we’re here for.”

A 19-9 loss on home soil would be particularly chastening. That scoreline was one shy of the wish of 20 that Patrick Cantlay had made when addressing his teammates ahead of the singles, in which the US went on to win seven of 12 matches.

Afterwards, Cantlay said: “This is going to be the next era of guys for the US. This American Ryder Cup team are going to be around for a while and we wanted to send a message as to what we can do. We have a lot of young guys and I think they are going to be on the team for a long time.”

It wasn’t so much a warning, simply a statement of fact.

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