SHEBOYGAN, Wisconsin – Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth came out third in the quartets on Saturday morning as the United States fought for the heart of Europe in the third session of the event. After building a 6-2 lead on Day 1, both teams knew that a big American performance in the morning would mean the 43rd Ryder Cup would indeed be over. Spieth delivered what is remembered as the knockout, and the United States secured the 3-1 session win they needed. A 2-2 split in the afternoon’s four-ball sessions gave the Americans an 11-5 lead, a score they will likely never remember.
Spieth’s dagger came on the 16th par-5 hole. After Thomas put in a 243-yard approach to 8 feet, Spieth placed his eagle putt at the heart of the cup and his dagger at the heart of Europe’s hopes. Thomas and Spieth won 2 UPs, completing a pair of 2 & 1 wins. The only flaw came from the Spanish hands of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (we’ll talk about this a little later).
The engraver may not have started carving the trophy by then, but he could have safely had it had he wanted to. It was another magical moment in an always packed week of them with the Americans now ranked favorites at -5,000, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
This event has ended. No team in history has ever surpassed a six-point lead at the Ryder Cup, and this 2021 European team is sure not to be the first. Still, there’s a lot to be said for a wild Saturday as the United States holds their biggest lead in singles competition since 1975.
Here are nine takeaways from Day 2 of what has been a wonderful Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
1. The silent assassin: JT and Spieth were nasty in closing their game, but Dustin Johnson was impeccable. He’s 4-0 after pairing up three times with Collin Morikawa and once with Xander Sc Chaudele, asserting himself in a way he’s never done in the Ryder Cups. Rahm will get all the shine for wearing the Europeans, but DJ has been just as good. He and Morikawa had 13 birdies in 33 round robin holes, then embarrassed Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter in the afternoon with six birdies and an eagle over 15 holes for DJ and Morikawa’s fourth point. To provide more context here, Johnson is one point lower (four) than the European continent as a whole (five) this week. DJ also has the opportunity to become the first highest ranked American golfer (and the fifth golfer in history!)
2. Best player on Earth: Incredibly, Johnson probably hasn’t been the most impressive Ryder Cup player this week. Rahm is 3-0-1 and went unbeaten in two games with Garcia on Saturday. They had four birdies and a dirty eagle in alternate fire, and Rahm had five birdies in four rounds in the afternoon. He has three and a half of Europe’s five points and has been an absolute Obligate. His most impressive quality (and it’s generally true) has been his relentlessness. Not all the shots were perfect, but he continues to descend until there is no one left to cross. At the 16th hole on Saturday afternoon with Brooks Koepka and Spieth appearing to be able to line up the game after Rahm hit a bad pitch at 29 feet, he holed the putt, won the hole and made the game sleepy. Sergio looked on in disbelief.
He’s a monster, an absolute joy to watch, he has the whole European team on his back and he always might be underestimated by golf enthusiasts who don’t quite understand how elite he was for a very long time.
3. N ° 12: The best hole on the course on Saturday was par-3 # 12. The PGA of America put a dirty right rear pin on a van-sized shelf, and the wind was absolutely howling. I watched all 12 golfers try to hit baby cuts in that nasty pin position, and most failed (Bryson DeChambeau almost bounced one off the hill into Lake Michigan). Par-3 courts with debilitating pin positions remain undefeated.
4. Shane Lowry loves the Ryder Cup: I’m not sure it needs to be dissected so closely, but Padraig Harrington’s decision to sit on Lowry twice in the first two days will be criticized. He putt to the last to win his game and roared for what appeared to be the 50th time on Saturday. This time his father joins him in the background. Lowry later said he was spending the week of his life and still believed Europe could win. They can’t, but Lowry is a hell of a gamer and it’s a pleasure to see him thrive in this environment.
5. JT is the American Poulter: A supported Euro mentioned this morning that it was difficult for his team to watch JT sing and dance all week, and it’s easy to see why. Then I realized that Thomas was the villainous American Poulter that everyone thought Patrick Reed was going to be. Except he’s better than both of them.
6. Shotgun start: Speaking of Thomas, he was at the center of the afternoon festivities when he and Berger beers blown on the first tee as the celebration started to roll out a bit with the Americans up 9-3 ahead of those afternoon games (which they split 2-2). Thomas lodged his beer on one knee and added the can afterwards, which wasn’t a problem for me, but it did create an inflection point in the week. If the United States left from there, this moment would be looked upon with great affection by American supporters. If Europe somehow sparked a miracle comeback, the memes of JT on one knee with a beer on his face and Shepherd on his back would literally never end.
7. Spicy moments: There were several tense moments on Saturday throughout the games. Koepka cursed two different rule makers, while Garcia laughed at his jokes with them. Speith entered the shot with Rahm’s caddy on a questionable line from a fall. Then Spieth and Garcia shouted a bit late in their match. DeChambeau put his putter down on the green at one point to show how he should have received a short putt. Thomas did the same in his morning game. Such tension is always good (and almost inevitable during this event). I don’t think it can be crafted at regular match-play events, but for this week every two years it’s great.
8. The generation change is underway: We sat on the 17th green as the last game of the day wrapped up, and the media colleague I was with noted, “This American team seems to really like each other. I think it’s probably pretty easy to do when you’re 11-5 before Sunday, but it brings up a larger point. It is the first American team in three decades without Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. These guys, amazing as they are as players, are still the most important people in the room, and it seems like it can turn into a black hole a lot of times. This generational shift towards six rookies, most of whom are in their 20s, has spawned a seemingly fairer group of 12 guys who seem to care deeply about this event.
Plus they played amazing golf.
9. The story awaits (and maybe more in two years): The United States has a chance of reaching 19 points on Sunday, which has never happened since Europe joined the competition in 1979. Of course, none of this is really validated until this point. let them go and win it on European soil. When they play in Rome in 2023, it will be 30 years since that last happened. But Sunday will be the sunset over Europe’s biggest generation of Ryder Cups (Lee Westwood and Poulter are clearly playing their last Ryder Cups) and the birth of news for the USA. will set the stage for what happens in Rome in 2023 as a new American era crystallizes and Europe leaves Whistling Straits with a myriad of questions and no big answers.
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