After finding themselves in Dire Straits at Whistling Straits following the opening two days in the 43rd edition, there was no way back for Padraig Harrington’s team in the concluding singles session.
Despite a gutsy win from Rory McIlroy at the top of the order, Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau all delivered early points for the US as the scoreboard turned into a sea of red before the win was clinched for Steve Stricker’s side through a half point from Open champion Collin Moirkawa.
Helped by Dustin Johnson making it five wins out of five, the home side went on to claim a record-breaking 19-9 victory, eclipsing Europe’s 18.5-9.5 triumphs in both 2004 and 2006.
On paper, this was the strongest-ever American team to go into battle in the biennial contest and, from start to finish, they lived up to that tag, leaving the Europeans licking their wounds for once after being well and truly pounded.
“This is a special day for everybody involved,” said Stricker. “These players were fired up coming in, played great and deserved it. We finally put in a dominant performance.”
Harrington had no complaints, saying:”It’s a tough loss for us, but the reality is they played better than us. Our spirit and motivation was high, but it was just tough for us on the golf course.
“It was always going to be a tall order. This was a strong US team and they got off to a strong start, too. A lot of things went against us.”
Having been on the wrong end of heavy defeats in his three previous matches, eyebrows were raised when McIlroy was sent out first by his captain, but the four-time major winner was in the mood to silence the critics.
Buoyed by winning the opening hole, albeit thanks to Schauffele missing a short putt, it was as though a flick had been switched as McIlroy found his game, driving it much better, controlling his irons again and starting to hole some putts, including a 20-footer for a half to maintain momentum.
Schauffele, who, in contrast, had won his three matches earlier in the contest, dug deep to hang on to McIlroy’s coat-tails and had halved an early two-hole deficit as they reached the turn.
But the European found himself with some breathing space after winning both the 10th and 11th, and, in the perfect response to losing the 13th, he celebrated holing a 15-footer to take the next hole with a roar of “come on!”
Though a chance to close the door was squandered at the 15th, it was job done at the next as he secured the first point of the day with a 3&1 win. Straight afterwards, his emotions flooded out as he effectively apologised to his team-mates for underperforming over the first two days, but, on this occasion, he did himself proud in leading by example.
Having holed a 15-footer for a half point on the 18th green in the penultimate session and producing one of the great celebrations on this stage, Lowry had been sent out second in the hope that he’d be able to keep riding that wave.
It started brightly enough for the 2019 Open champion, one of three rookies in the European team, as he birdied the second to get his nose in front against Patrick Cantlay, one of six first-timers in the US ranks.
But there’s a reason why Cantlay won the FedEx Cup earlier in the month and that became evident as the American roared back to claim four holes in a row from the third as he quickly took that game by the scruff of the neck.
Lowry isn’t the type to throw in the towel and, after being three down heading to the back nine, he briefly raised hopes of salvaging the situation by getting back to within striking distance by taking the 10th and 12th, both with birdies.
Cantlay is a cool customer, though, and he went on to claim his point with a 4&2 success, which came shortly Scheffler had claimed a notable scalp in his first head-to-head match on this stage.
Rahm, the world No 1, had been Europe’s star man over the first two days, picking up three-and-a-half points from four games, including three successes alongside fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia.
On that return, coupled with the fact he’s the current US Open champion, Rahm set out as one of the players Harrington had felt confident about delivering an early point, but Scheffler had other ideas.
Making light of the fact he’s never won on the PGA Tour and was another of Stricker’s rookies, the Texan won the opening three holes, all with birdies. He’d made four in six holes as Rahm soon found himself facing a losing battle.
“I got off to a good start and I kept the pressure on him the whole day,” said Scheffler as he reflected on a 4&3 victory.
It had been a week to remember for Garcia, having taken his all-time record points total to 28.5 with those three triumphs in tandem with Rahm and also now holding the record for most match wins in the event with 25.
Clipping DeChambeau’s wings would have capped a fine individual contribution for the former Masters champion on his tenth appearance, but the American had other things in mind from the off.
He drove the green at the first, carrying his ball on to the green at the 364-yard par-4, and raised one of the loudest roars of the week on the banks of Lake Michigan as he then rolled in the eagle putt.
In the process, the tone was set in that match and, after also losing the second hole, this time to a par after finding a horrible spot in a bunker short of the green, Garcia found himself on the back foot.
At the sixth, another reachable par-4 on this Pete Dye-designed course, DeChambeau drew a groan from the fans when he swapped his driver for a 3-wood. “Guys, I’m still going for the green, calm down,” he said, smiling.
While Garcia gave it his all, he eventually went down 3&2. “He's an unbelievable player in match play and I knew today was going to be a tough fight and I had to go out and make a lot of birdies,” said DeChambeau.
“This golf course does suit me pretty well, but I was fortunate to hit a couple great wedge shots and a couple good bombs out there, especially a great start on 1, that was a great start that pumped me up for the rest of the round.”
The Americans reached the magical 14.5-point mark when Morikawa finished all square following a ding-dong battle with Viktor Hovland before Brooks Kopeka added another point with a 2&1 win over Bernd Wiesberger.
Dustin Johnson then became just the third player in the event to win five points out of five as he beat Paul Casey on the last, joining Larry Nelson (1979) and Francesco Molinari (2018) in that exclusive club.
"You know, starting the week, if you had told me I was going to go 5-0-0, I probably would have said you were crazy,” said Johnson, the oldest player on the US team at 37. “I didn't think I was going to play five matches.
“But obviously it was a great week. The team played amazing. All of us came together and I think we just wanted it a little bit more.”
Ian Poulter maintained his proud record of being unbeaten in the singles with a 3&2 win over Tony Finau while Lee Westwood marked his record-equalling 47th match by beating Harris English by one hole.
Tommy Fleetwood finished all square with Jordan Spieth, but, coupled with an earlier win for Justin Thomas against Tyrrell Hatton, Daniel Berger’s last-hole success over Matthew Fitzpatrick in the bottom match saw the US finish off the job in record-breaking fashion.
Xander Schauffele lost to Rory McIlroy 3&2
Patrick Cantlay bt Shane Lowry 4&2
Scottie Scheffler bt Jon Rahm 4&3
Bryson DeChambeau bt Sergio Garcia 3&2
Collin Morikawa halved with Viktor Hovland
Dustin Johnson bt Paul Casey one hole
Brooks Koepka bt Bernd Wiesberger 2&1
Tony Finau lost to Ian Poulter 3&2
Justin Thomas bt Tyrrell Hatton 4&3
Harris English lost to Lee Westwood one hole
Jordan Spieth halved with Tommy Fleetwood
Daniel Berger bt Matt Fitzpatrick one hole