Since the iconic pin at Hazeltine National Golf Club was moved to its proper angle on Sunday, the entire week of the Ryder Cup in Minnesota has had an entirely different feel to it than the 2014-15 edition at Medinah, Illinois. All week long, members of the European team have tried to kick over the pin, even calling out the golf gods to help. But it was the Americans on the weekend who seemingly did everything humanly possible to try to move the pins, from climbing trees to drilling huge ball-incurring shots that caused all kinds of damage. It also wasn’t long ago that everyone in the world had been jumping for joy whenever an American player won a putt, and cheers would go up when the Internationals won one, too.
After a week of tennis-grade tennis throughout the Champions Week, the final match was the culmination of the matches, and it took a complete reversal of fortunes for the Europeans to pick up one point. Americans, on the other hand, poured all their heart and energy into winning this Ryder Cup in a hole deeper than the one they had dug themselves into the week before. Afterward, the players seemed more than happy to shut up and watch the ceremony.
“I’m just speechless,” said Thomas Pieters, the golfer who took on Dustin Johnson and outlasted him. “My nerves are just so ticked off right now.”
Fans and media alike have been wondering all week what the American team was thinking when it decided to make the round of 16 in the group stages the semifinals for the first time since the Ryder Cup expanded to include five teams. Normally, U.S. players end the round of 16 on Day 1, setting up a best-of-three set up for the semifinals. But the Americans held off on qualifying for the round of 16, and then flew off to Montana on the final day, leaving players who had originally qualified on Day 2 instead of the fourth one. The message at the time was that the Americans simply weren’t able to produce a round of great golf. But in the penultimate round, they seemed determined to make amends, and that effort ultimately paid off. And as the European team went down in flames and downplaying their lack of a fight, it might be hard to question the intent of the American players.
It was a major display of strength and teamwork from Johnson, a course champion at Hazeltine last year. Johnson was paired with Tony Finau, the one-time Playboy Playmate who is simply dynamite as a player, not to mention his sex appeal. Finau seemed more a spectator than he was playing partner in the first match of the day, but then somehow, out of nowhere, they knocked the Finn out of contention in a sublime performance. Finau won for the eighth time in nine times when he and Johnson team up, tying Phil Mickelson’s record.
#USA and @TonyFinauPGA are the team to beat at the #RyderCup 2021! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/QdUnBLSqtU — Team USA (@TeamUSA) March 15, 2020
“It was fun,” Finau said afterward. “It’s a lot of work, and sometimes you’ve got to put the work in and take a break and we did that at Christmas. And we got back and were ready to go.”
Johnson did most of the work, at one point hitting a gap wedge so well that it came off the wrist with searing speed and sent it right down the slope at the hole. It was an incredible shot, but not exactly legal. He ended up making birdie. He didn’t just post a top score, he had a personal best.
“I mean, I can’t believe I made all four, but it still feels good to be part of a good team and just to see everybody else happy,” Johnson said. “But yeah, it’s just hard. I’m not even going to lie. I made a lot of friends.”
🚨 #KIAHGOLFCOACHWALL is officially LIVE pic.twitter.com/2cwwy49JFS — Kia Golf (@KiaGolf) March 15, 2020
Even those who had left the course or had left at some point in the day were watching the finale, watching as the Americans punished Europe so thoroughly with a 16-5 victory that the trophy was taken out before the day was done. And watching, with the