For most of the last two decades, the long-running (and often misguided) narrative when it came to the United States’ futility in the Ryder Cup was that the Europeans simply cared more than the Americans.
As if Tiger Woods doesn’t mind losing.
Even if some shred of that were true - certainly one could argue a degree of selfishness permeated previous iterations and at times there might have been a lack of collegial buy-in, but that’s different than not caring - that argument is now as dead as the previous record for biggest margin of victory after America blew out Europe in historic fashion, 19-9, on Sunday at Whistling Straits.
“I’m very optimistic about our chances of winning,” Tony Finau told Golf Channel reporter Todd Lewis on Saturday night. Sitting on an 11-5 lead at the time, such a proclamation is easy to make. But there was a point to be made in saying it. Lots of them it turns out. “They’ve run the score up on us before and if we have the opportunity tomorrow we are going to run it up, too.”
That was a sentiment shared throughout the team room.
“I woke up [Sunday] morning and I was trying to tell the guys - this is going to be the next era of Ryder Cup teams for the U.S. side,” Patrick Cantlay said after his 4 & 2 dismantling of Shane Lowry on Sunday, noting that the message was to try to get to 20 points. “We have a lot of young guys and I think they are going to be on teams for a long time and I wanted to send a message.”
Another message seems resoundingly clear now, too: These guys do care and they showed it, by course and by performance, during the week and beyond.
“I think the young guys on this team get along really well,” Cantlay continued. “Everybody gets along. The atmosphere is light but I know everyone has that killer instinct and we are going to bring that to future Cups.”
Save for the Brooks Koepka/Bryson DeChambeau feud - one the two managed to shelve for the week as promised - the heartbeat of this US team and those to come really is a connected bunch.
The longtime Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas friendship. The new Cantlay-Schauffele marriage. The Batman and Robin duo of Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson, who at 37 years old - and 5-0 for the week - was the oldest member of a team that averaged just 29 years of age. Tony Finau? He’s as nice a guy as you’ll find on either team and now his game is moving to another level. Ditto Scottie Scheffler. Even Koepka and DeChambeau managed a (brief) hug!
The US featured six rookies on the team but that was a moniker hardly befitting their accomplishments and skillsets: Morikawa is a major champion and multiple winner; Cantlay won the FedEx Cup this year; Schauffele has four wins and an Olympic gold medal; Daniel Berger and Harris English are multiple-time winners with a toolset that meshes in a team format; Scottie Scheffler has been a rising star for months. There are other young 20-somethings on the rise on this side of the pond, too.
Conversely, Europe is somewhat ageing out. Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia are all in their 40s. So is Justin Rose, who didn’t even make this year’s team. Its cupboard of younger stars is also not as full.
Then there was the buy-in from the US team, which went far beyond this week, from practice rounds ahead of this year's Ryder Cup all the way back to childhood with many having competed with and against each other.
“Two weeks ago they came together,” captain Steve Stricker said of an organised practice round at Whistling Straits. “[That] showed me a lot about this group of guys. They all showed up for the practice rounds, all the assistant captains showed up at the practice rounds.”
Compare that to 2018, when only Justin Thomas played the French Open ahead of that year’s Ryder Cup at Le Golf National.
“They had a mission this week and you could tell,” Stricker continued. “They played great and they came together. I mean, Brooks and Bryson wanted to play together; that's how much it came together. That shows a lot about this whole team.”
And its future, too.