The United States Lost on European Soil, Again

By David Ford

It had been 25 years since the United States last won the Ryder Cup on European soil. While the U.S. team entertained a potential comeback on Sunday, the seemingly impossible will continue for at least another four years.

The Ryder Cup is golf’s biennial competition between the most talented players from the U.S. and Europe. The venues alternate between U.S. and Europe every other year. During the previous Ryder Cup in 2016, the U.S. finally broke through.

This year, however, Europe reminded them of their superiority. In the last nine Ryder Cups, Europe came away with the shiny gold trophy seven times. The last time the U.S. defeated Europe on their own territory dates back to 1993.

The 2018 Ryder Cup saw the U.S. as favorites to win, at least in my opinion. After all, their roster featured Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and so on. On paper, the U.S. team was better. On their turf, the European team outplayed the U.S.

Since the tournament took place overseas, I was forced to either wake up around 3 or 4 a.m., or stay up until then to watch the matches. I proudly can say I did a combination of both. Anyway, back to business.

In the Ryder Cup, there are a total of 28 points available to win. The points are accumulated through different golf competition formats: fourballs, foursomes and singles play. Europe won 17 1/2 to the U.S.’s 10 1/2.

During the team selection, U.S. captain Jim Furyk appeared to assemble an elite roster of veterans and young stars. Nobody questioned the golfers Furyk chose, but people will question the matchup choices Furyk went with during the Ryder Cup.

Fresh off his first professional victory since Aug. 4, 2013, Woods carried momentum into the tournament. He didn’t win a single point for the team. The Ryder Cup continues to serve as Wood’s kryptonite. His record currently stands at 13-21 all-time. Alongside Woods, Mickelson failed to produce. The former top golfers in the world didn’t accrue a single point for the U.S. team.

According to an article by Karen Crouse of The New York Times, the most accurate player off on the U.S. side was, ironically, Furyk himself. He ranked No. 10 in fairways hit on the PGA Tour this season.

The Ryder Cup venue, Le Golf National, rewards accurate golfers; it severely punishes those who are the opposite. According to Crouse, Mickelson ranked 192nd on the tour this season in driving accuracy.

Mickelson is one of the greatest golfers to play the game, but at age 48, he struggled to hit fairways and play at a consistent level. It’s difficult to justify playing Mickelson at a course that played directly to his weaknesses.

In a CBS Sports article by Kyle Porter, Mickelson said the team mostly agreed with Furyk’s roster decisions, but not everyone.

Within the same article, U.S. team member Patrick Reed blasted Furyk for not playing him alongside Spieth, or playing him at all on in the foursome matches on Friday or Saturday afternoon. The article states he was undefeated in the previous Ryder Cup in those formats. After all, not everyone agreed with the decisions.

While mostly everyone agreed on the roster decisions, the featured U.S. groups failed to play like it, especially Mickelson who likely played in his final Ryder Cup.

As a result, the European duo of Sergio Garcia and Alexander Noren destroyed Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau. Since DeChambeau partnered with both Woods and Mickelson during the event, he too didn’t gain a single point. These three were the only ones not to. On the other hand, Spieth and Thomas combined for seven of the 10 1/2 points the U.S. won.

While the U.S. led 3-1 after the morning session on Friday, the afternoon session went completely haywire. The U.S. got swept 4-0 in the afternoon foursomes; the matches weren’t close either. The European duo of Garcia and Noren destroyed Mickelson and DeChambeau.

U.S. duo of Spieth and Thomas looked dynamite on paper; they lost by five holes to Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood. The sweep on Friday afternoon set the U.S. back 5-3 after the first day. They never recovered.

The U.S. entered the final day down 10-6; only the singles matches remained. According to ESPN, a four point, final-day deficit had only been erased twice (USA 1999, Europe 2012). The first three matches looked promising for the U.S. Thomas defeated Rory McIlroy, Koepka tied Paul Casey and Webb Simpson defeated the top ranked player in the world, Justin Rose.

The U.S. flirted with a comeback early on, but faltered late. Reed and Tony Finau were the only two golfers on the U.S. to defeat their European opponent; the seven other matches went to Europe.

The U.S. will have a chance to reclaim the trophy in 2020 at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis. Unfortunately, Woods and Mickelson will likely be replaced by then, but the U.S. should definitely consider making these players captains.