No Mystery to Why Europe Lost Ryder Cup
FOR ONCE, the world rankings didn’t lie. Europe were simply outclassed and outplayed by the United States at Whistling Straits. We were told that if the wind blew it would play into the hands of Padraig Harrington’s side. Well, the wind blew, and it was Steve Stricker’s team who coped with it.
They found more fairways and they putted better than Europe’s finest. Period.
There were many storylines. Unfortunately, most of them were written by the home team,.
We saw what was surely the end of the Ryder Cup playing careers of Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. Westwood would probably be the first to admit that he didn’t really expect to be playing. His form earlier in the year was outstanding but he has been struggling for months and continued to look out of sorts.
When Padraig Harrington named Ian Poulter as one of his wildcards he said that the veteran Englishman had been playing outstanding golf all year. The evidence was rather different as far as most of us were concerned. Poulter has performed many miraculous deeds while representing Europe but Whistling Straits was one Ryder Cup too many.
It was also sad to see Rory McIlroy performing like a shadow of the golfer we all know him to be. He had a miserable time of it on Friday, losing twice in a day for the first time. He was dropped for the first time in his Ryder Cup career for the Saturday foursomes and then lost again in the afternoon.
Harrington made some odd decisions and will no doubt have to answer some awkward questions. Sergio Garcia played superbly in winning his foursomes match alongside Jon Rahm on the opening morning. McIlroy played horribly as he and Poulter were thrashed in the same session. Harrington chose to send McIlroy out again in the afternoon and rest Garcia. It was a huge mistake.
Why did Shane Lowry, a man in form, not play all five sessions? Ditto Tommy Fleetwood. Why did Harrington send out Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick in the Saturday foursomes when both men were so horribly out of form?
In truth, it would probably have made little difference to the outcome of the match. The reality is that this was an American team that performed to their potential. And the worrying thing for Europe is that the bulk of this US side will be back to do it all again in Italy in two years’ time.
The European side will surely look very different in Italy - there will be no Westwood, no Poulter, no Paul Casey. It is time for the young guns on the European Tour to step up to the plate.
On the positive side, we have Jon Rahm, the world number one, who was imperious. Viktor Hovland may not have had the Ryder Cup debut he had hoped for but he will be a key man for years to come. And there were encouraging signs from Tyrrell Hatton and Fleetwood. And Garcia justified his wildcard selection. Had it not been for Rahm, Hatton and Garcia this defeat - bad though it was - would have been much, much worse.
This was an American team unburdened by the weight of history and roared on by a massive partisan home gallery. The rare brilliant shots from Europe were greeted in utter silence.
The man who grabbed most of the headlines was the extraordinary Bryson DeChambeau. His opening drive in the Friday fourballs hit a spectator on the fly. There were no audible shouts of “Fore”. The Californian, who almost drove the 364-yard opening hole in practice on Thursday, went wide right off the tee and struck a female spectator flush on the leg.
No harm was done fortunately, unlike at the 2018 Ryder Cup when a fan was caught in the eye by a shot from Brooks Koepka and lost the sight in it.
DeChambeau, who sat out the morning foursomes, recovered superbly from the position to birdie the hole. He then thrilled the home fans by launching a 417-yard drive over the water at the fifth hole. He carried the ball more than 350 yards through the air.
The biggest hitter on the PGA Tour has had a torrid relationship with American fans as a result of his feud with teammate Koepka. But he endeared himself to them with an extraordinary display of huge hitting and an ability to hole key putts. Hopefully, this week marked a turning point - and the end of the ridiculous disagreements between him and Koepka.
We also saw Jordan Spieth produce the most unbelievable recovery shot at the par-three 17th hole in the opening foursomes. His partner, Justin Thomas, hit an iron that struck a mound and took a wicked deflection, finishing in a horrific lie and leaving Spieth facing a wall-of-death recovery. He somehow got the ball to five feet from the hole but lost his footing and very nearly ended up in Lake Michigan. Sadly, Thomas missed the putt for what would have been one of the most unlikely of pars.
Tony Finau, who has a reputation for being a poor putter when the chips are down, drained them for fun. As did Dustin Johnson.
For once, we just have to admit that we were beaten by the better team. This is no time for recriminations. The Americans were sensational and deserve full credit. Harrington will no doubt reflect on some of his choices but there was very little he could have done to influence the outcome.
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