3 reasons the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup
The United States' 30-year road drought for a Ryder Cup victory in Europe will extend until at least 2027 after the hosts dispatched the Americans 16.5-11.5 in Italy on Sunday.
The week began with a whimper for the defending champions as Europe raced out to a 4-0 lead after morning foursomes Friday and held a 6.5-1.5 advantage after Day 1.
That would end up being the final margin of victory despite a Sunday charge from captain Zach Johnson's team, which briefly made things interesting.
Here are three glaring reasons why the Europeans are Ryder Cup winners while the Americans head back to the drawing board.
European stars dominated
The top six players in the Official World Golf Ranking are split evenly with three Europeans and three Americans, but there was a clear divide between those two groups this week. Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm, and Rory McIlroy absolutely blitzed the trio of Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, and Xander Schauffele, with the Europeans posting a sizzling 9-2-3 record. The Americans only mustered a feeble 3-7-2 mark.
With only 14.5 points needed to win the cup, the Europeans leaned heavily on their top talent, sending McIlroy and Hovland out in all five sessions and Rahm in four. Conversely, Scheffler, Cantlay, and Schauffele all spent one session on the sideline.
Cantlay ended the tournament as one of the standout American performers, but one must remember his 0-2 mark with Schauffele before he went on a tear Saturday afternoon. Scheffler was on the wrong end of a historic 9&7 loss in foursomes and couldn't secure a crucial win over Rahm in singles Sunday despite leading 1-up on the 18th. Schauffele looked out of sorts the entire week before ripping off a singles win over rookie Nicolai Hojgaard.
The Ryder Cup is often decided by the teams' superstars. Poor play only be overcome if the captain's picks provide unexpected production. Zach Johnson's team didn't have that luxury, and his big names doomed the Americans from the jump.
Captain's picks flopped
The number of captain's picks has grown in recent years from two to four and now stands at six. That allows each captain to shape his team with the type of player he thinks will thrive in the cauldron that is the Ryder Cup. It's safe to say Johnson dropped the ball with his selections. The six players combined to supply only six points for the entire week.
Justin Thomas' season-long slump led many to question his selection, but Johnson opted to lean on his sterling record in team events and bring him along. That backfired as Thomas finished with a 1-2-1 mark for the week. His partnership with fellow captain's pick Jordan Spieth was a disaster, with the duo going 0-2-1. Thomas finished 21st of 24 players in strokes gained for the week with Spieth two behind him in 23rd. Not only did Johnson keep playing both players despite their struggles, but he also kept them together when it was clear Spieth was holding Thomas back.
Rickie Fowler was apparently battling the flu but still was sent out in the opening session Friday. After he lost, Johnson kept him on the bench for the rest of the team sessions in a move he called a "captain's decision." Fowler ended up conceding the putt to Tommy Fleetwood in singles that ended the Ryder Cup after he drove it into the water off the 16th tee. He now holds a 3-9-5 career record in the event.
Europe's captain's picks ended up supplying 9.5 total points for the week with Fleetwood leading the way with 3.5.
Slow starts, poor finishes
If the scores from Nos. 4-15 were the only ones that counted, the Americans likely would have seen a much different outcome. For whatever reason, Team USA really struggled to get rounds started at Marco Simone. The Europeans held an enormous 17-6 advantage on Nos. 1-3 over the three days, including a perfect 3-0 start in both Saturday morning foursomes sessions.
Starting slowly is one thing, but with plenty of holes to make up ground, it doesn't cripple a team like a poor finish can. That's another area where the Europeans shone bright, dominating the final three holes on the course to flip a number of matches. The Europeans won 19 holes over Nos. 16-18 in Italy, while the Americans won just 13.
The Friday afternoon four-ball session illustrated how uplifting a strong finish can be. The Americans came to the 16th tee with a lead in three of the four matches but failed to register a full point in any of them. Rahm taught his opponents a lesson on how to close out a match with two eagles over the final three holes to turn a loss into a half-point for the Europeans.
Sunday's singles matches came down to the wire, and had the Americans closed out one or two of those heated matches Friday, the end result could have been much different.