By DOUG FERGUSON
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — The Americans won back the Ryder Cup and perhaps a whole lot more Sunday, sending a strong message to Europe with a powerful performance from their youngest team in history.
Scottie Scheffler, one of six Ryder Cup newcomers for the Americans, took down the No. 1 player in the world with a 4-and-3 victory over Jon Rahm as the scoreboards around Whistling Straits quickly filled with American red.
The final blow came from Collin Morikawa, at 24 the youngest player on the team and already a two-time major champion. He holed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that assured the Americans at least the 14 1/2 points they needed.
The celebration was on, even as the American were still keeping score.
“I woke up this morning and I was trying to tell the guys, ‘Let’s get to 20 points,’ because this is going to be the next era of Ryder Cup team for the U.S. side,” Patrick Cantlay said, finishing an unbeaten week with a win over Shane Lowry.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys. I think they’re going to be on teams for a long time, and I wanted to send a message.”
With two matches still on the course, the Americans already were assured of their most lopsided victory over Europe.
Tony Finau had said on the eve of these matches that this was “the big one” because Europe had won nine of the last 12, and the Americans had so many fresh faces without any lasting scars from watching Europe celebrate so much over the years.
The big one became one big rout.
The gallery saved one of its loudest cheers for U.S. captain Steve Stricker, the Wisconsin native who has been at the helm of blowouts in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
“This is a new era for USA golf,” Stricker said. “They are young. They come with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of game. They are just so good.”
The old guy — Dustin Johnson at 37 — was pretty good, too.
Johnson became the first American since Larry Nelson in 1979 to go 5-0, completing his perfect week by beating Paul Casey.
The Americans were young, yes, and very good, with four of the top five in the world ranking. They finally played like it. Those four players — Johnson, Morikawa, Cantlay and Xander Schauffele — combined for a 14-1-2 record.
Stricker wasn’t the only one in tears.
Rory McIlroy, who failed to win any of his three team matches, led Europe off again and gave Schauffele his first loss of the week. It wasn’t nearly enough. All day along the shores of Lake Michigan, the outcome was inevitable.
McIlroy teared up in his interview when talking about how much the Ryder Cup means to him.
“I’ve never really cried or got emotional over what I’ve done as an individual. I couldn’t give an (expletive),” he said on NBC. “But this team … to see Sergio (Garcia) break records, to see Jon Rahm come into his own this week, to see one of my best friends, Shane Lowry, make his Ryder Cup debut, all that. It’s phenomenal.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t contribute more this week,” he said. “But in two years’ time, we’ll go again and give it another so. Sorry for swearing, as well.”
As much as this was about a new generation of Americans, this looked to be an aging team of Europeans. They brought winning experience, but not nearly enough form.
Paul Casey, one of four Europeans in his 40s, failed to earn a point in four matches this week. Ian Poulter beat Finau and remains unbeaten in singles in his six Ryder Cups. He crouched on the 16th green after winning his match, wondering if this might be his last one.
His thoughts also turned to Padraig Harrington, the European captain.
“This is going to be hard, because Paddy is going to be questioned, and that’s not fair,” Poulter said.
There was little Europe could have done. This U.S. team was loaded and played like it.
“They had a mission this week,” Stricker said. “You could tell.”
The next step is winning on the road, which the Americans haven’t done since 1993. Europe still has an 11-9-1 advantage since the Ryder Cup was expanded in 1979 to include the continent.