You only had to see Rory McIlroy’s reaction to understand that this Ryder Cup defeat hurt. There was pain within the European ranks, a sense of humiliation after a 19-9 trouncing, the biggest margin of victory since the USA’s 21-11 win over Great Britain and Ireland in 1975.
There were still smiles, this was still a European team united, but it felt like for many of those in blue, their Ryder Cup journeys had come to an end.
On paper, the US had by far the stronger team, and were the favourites in the online betting. Indeed, on numerous occasions they have had the stronger collection of players, and yet Europe’s togetherness and team spirit have made the difference — not this time. For the first Ryder Cup in a while, Team USA were spirited and united, a group of supremely talented players all pulling in the same direction towards the same goal.
This was always the danger for Europe, that things would eventually click among the USA’s superstars and they would make their superiority count. But as much as the Americans excelled, there was a sense that many of Europe’s trusted performers of past Ryder Cups failed to produce the goods this time around.
The likes of Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood all struggled to perform to the levels we know they are capable of, while McIlroy endured a Ryder Cup to forget, although he did restore some pride by beating Xander Schauffele in their singles match. But overall, experience was defeated by youth and despite Europe’s golfers having significantly more Ryder Cup knowhow, they could not cope with the simple fact that Team USA boasted more talent.
There were six players over the age of 34 in Europe’s team, including four over 40, compared to just one player over 34 for the United States. The elder statesmen in the European setup have provided plenty of golden memories for golf fans from the continent, but their performances at Whistling Straits were a stark exposition of their waning powers. Setting García aside, who once again rose to the occasion at a Ryder Cup, Shane Lowry, Casey, Poulter, Westwood, and Wiesberger scored a total of just three points between them.
So, where does this leave Team Europe ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome? Can we realistically expect to see players like Casey, Poulter, Westwood and Sergio García line out yet again? Ryder Cup specialist García performed admirably in a struggling team, notching three points, which only Jon Rahm bettered among the European ranks, but at 41 years of age he is in the autumn of his career. Is there the quality coming through to adequately replace those veterans in two years’ time?
Viktor Hovland, despite struggling for consistency over the three days, demonstrated that he has all the talent needed to be a valuable Ryder Cup player for years to come. There is also the fact that, in Rahm, Europe possess arguably the best player in the world at the moment, who could well dominate the game of golf as he reaches the peak years of his career. The likes of Matt Fitzpatrick, Robert MacIntyre and Guido Migliozzi will all undoubtedly have more of a say as future Ryder Cups come round the bend, but when stacked up against the riches of talent at the USA’s disposal, it’s hard to see how they can establish themselves in the online betting tips.
One thing Europe’s Ryder Cup teams have never lacked is unity and collective spirit. Those are the virtues that must be instilled in the younger generation of European golfers if they are to avoid getting swept away entirely by a red wave. The 2021 Ryder Cup was one to forget, but the work must start now if Europe are to avoid a repeat when the great tournament heads to Italy in 2023.