As the dust settles on what was a proper Ryder Cup trouncing, it’s only normal for there to be some concern among European fans that this could be the start of a new era of US dominance in the biennial contest.
Coming into the week at Whistling Straits, eight players on Steve Stricker’s side were ranked in the world’s top 10. Three more were inside the top 16, with Scottie Scheffler the ‘outlier’ at World No. 21.
In contrast, only one member of Padraig Harrington’s team was in the top 10 – to soften the blow it was World No. 1 Jon Rahm – and the Irishman’s highest-ranked player was Bernd Wiesberger at No. 63.
The outcome? A record-breaking 19-9 win for the hosts.
The correlation is far from direct, of course, and this wasn’t anything new, but it was only a matter of time before dominance in the rankings equated to Ryder Cup supremacy – for one edition at least.
From a European perspective, what’s most worrying though, is that this group of Americans is here to stay.
The average age of the 2021 home charges was 29. At 37, Dustin Johnson was the ‘elder statesman’ of the bunch. He went 5-0 for the week, becoming just the third player to do so.
And it’s not a stretch to say Team USA will look pretty familiar in Rome in two years. All that might be different is that they’ll be sporting another major champion or two in their line-up. Daunting prospect? It should be.
Especially when you consider how “together” they looked. There were no inspirational videos or fan gestures in the build-up but, to a man, each player truly did appear to have “bought in” as captain Stricker mentioned more than a few times.
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Still, the usual question marks surrounded the US side ahead of the 43rd edition of golf’s team extravaganza. Every one was answered.
Even Brooks and Bryson managed to put aside their differences – as promised – for one tournament, sealing it with a half-hearted hug at the closing presser. There was talk that they even wanted to be paired together for a session according to Stricker, such was their renaissance.
That must’ve been the “something fun” DeChambeau teased.
“But they have no natural pairings”, was another concern doing the rounds before a ball was struck. If that were true, it certainly isn’t now.
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas we knew about but the rookie partnership of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay could, and probably will, be devastating for years to come.
Elsewhere, DJ and Collin Morikawa struck up an unlikely bromance and if Scottie Scheffler can remain in or around the top-20, he seems like the man to bring the best out of DeChambeau.
“If we play like we did this week, the score will look the same over there in a couple years,” a confident and unusually outspoken Spieth proclaimed on Sunday night.
That might be a stretch, but it also might not.
After all, while the USA could arrive in Rome unchanged, the same won’t be true for their opponents. With an average age of 35 and four players in their 40s, we likely witnessed the last hurrahs of a few European stalwarts, who bow out with their heads held high regardless of this year’s scoreline.
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Lee Westwood played his first Ryder Cup in 1997 and admitted in the final European press conference that 2021 was likely his last.
The same could be true of Ian Poulter and Paul Casey who, at 45 and 44-years-old respectively, struggled to a combined record of 1-6-0 this week.
While now isn’t the time for a kneejerk reaction, an influx of fresh European talent in time for the match in two years wouldn’t go amiss.
The problem? It’s not immediately obvious where it’ll come from. Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre has the makings of a great Ryder Cupper and the Hojgaard twins have no shortage of promise, but it’s fair to say the well is nowhere near as deep this side of the Atlantic.
In John Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood, the spine of a great line-up is in place, and home advantage will always play its part, but such a harrowing defeat could signal the end of Europe’s incredible run and usher in a period of Ryder Cup supremacy for the red, white and blue.
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