SHEYBOYGAN, Wisconsin (TBEN) – Since Europeans started winning the Ryder Cups en masse, various brain trusts on the American side have tried to find ways to turn the tide.
They created pods, studied pairings as if they were complicated algorithms, and added so many assistant captains that you half expected Phil Mickelson to come out and play a few shots as he followed Bryson DeChambeau to Whistling Straits.
Not a lot of work. They never figured out how to make American players care about their teammates as much as Europeans always seem to.
Maybe they don’t need it anymore. Maybe they’ve finally found the secret to success.
Having the best players in the world – and a lot of them – should be enough to win this Ryder Cup.
It really looked like this on Friday as the Ryder Cup opened to massive crowds doing their part to bring the home team to victory. The US team took the lead in the morning session and then followed an afternoon performance where almost everyone smiled in red, white and blue.
“I think everyone has been waiting for years for this to happen,” said Xander Sc Chaudele, who won two points in one day on his Ryder Cup debut.
Five years to be precise since the last victory for the United States at Hazeltine, the only victory of the last five for the Americans. They were spanked last time in Paris and had to spend an extra year because of the pandemic to have a chance to redeem themselves.
On that day, 11 different American players scored points in eight matches. Dustin Johnson dominated on both of his outings, DeChambeau hit a 417-yard drive and Justin Thomas made a key eagle on the 16th hole as the United States led 6-2 after day one.
Along the way, some flaws have come to light within a European team that for years has relied on camaraderie and closeness to win cup after cup.
Lee Westwood, who was playing in his 11th Ryder Cup, looked to be 48 as he was on the losing side in the morning foursomes. Ian Poulter’s incredible 14-6-2 record rose to 14-7-2 after he and Rory McIlroy were knocked out 5-and-3 by Patrick Cantlay and Xander Sc Chaudter.
And after McIlroy and Shane Lowry were beaten badly by Tony Finau and Harris English in four afternoon bullets, European captain Padraig Harrington had to question a strategy that would build on the former No.1 world to lead his team to victory.
This could be seen as just one bad day on the links. But it could well be that the recipe that has won four of the last five Ryder Cups for the European team has finally gone awry.
Yes, it’s tough to win on the road when the boisterous home crowd turns apoplectic against every American birdie. But, on that day, the Europeans were never close to securing the kind of collective roll they have used to such advantage in previous Cups.
They couldn’t silence the crowd. They couldn’t face an American squad made up of 11 of the top 20 players in the world – with Scottie Scheffler at No.21.
They couldn’t do what they usually do – win holes no matter who was cheering.
Even when Tyrell Hatton’s birdie putt on the 18th hole dropped to save a half point in his game, the first pump and celebration that briefly got the adrenaline pumping among the Europeans came far too late in the day for to have importance.
Still, McIlroy remained hopeful as he watched the final couple from inside the ropes.
“We can come back from 6-2,” he said. “If it’s 6-2, we can come back.
It would be a monumental task on either side of the pond, but it seems almost impossible in Whistling Straits. Americans have a momentum, the wild support of the local crowd, and a quiet confidence that the days of European domination are over.
Yes, it was just one day. But it was a day that seemed different from the others, a day when it seemed like things had changed.
One day, Americans finally began to reclaim their rightful place in team golf.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for the The Bharat Express News. Write to him at [email protected] or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg