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    Tensions Flare in Ryder Cup as the U.S. Team Takes a Commanding Lead

    The Americans were calmly overpowering the European side, but then things got testy.HAVEN, Wis. — Golf is a game of decorum.Except in the Ryder Cup, where some combination of pressure, patriotism and pride routinely leads players to engage in frisky gamesmanship, clash over rulings and stoke or shush fans if it gives them an emotional advantage.This year’s Ryder Cup, however, was shaping up to be an exception to the usual peevishness. As the midpoint of the three-day event neared on Saturday, the American team was calmly overpowering the European side, whose golfers appeared lifeless and beaten. But that changed in the stretch of roughly one hour when there were four testy episodes involving players from both teams.Brooks Koepka defiantly and profanely disputed the decision of two rules officials who declined to give him a free drop. His American teammate, Jordan Spieth, and the caddie for his European opponent Jon Rahm had an animated quarrel about the proper place for a drop after Rahm hammered a shot into Lake Michigan. Bryson DeChambeau and Shane Lowry each gestured with their putters in protest after short putts were not conceded, although DeChambeau’s putt was far lengthier.Bryson DeChambeau of the United States laid his putter on the green in protest after his opponents refused to concede a short putt.Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesPerhaps not by coincidence, what was looking like an American rout suddenly became a tight, taut contest. After the United States won three of four team matches on Saturday morning to take a six-point lead in the event, the European team stormed back in the afternoon and at one point appeared capable of winning three of those four matches.But as the sun was setting along Lake Michigan in central Wisconsin, the Americans rallied to earn two victories that gave them a commanding 11-5 lead heading into Sunday’s 12 singles matches, which are each worth one point. The Americans would need to win only three and a half points on Sunday to win the Ryder Cup for just the second time since 2008.Dustin Johnson, left, and Collin Morikawa are undefeated as a team for the United States.Charlie Neibergall/Associated PressSteve Stricker, the American captain, smiled broadly Saturday evening as he assessed his team’s chances.“Those afternoon session matches were so important. If they blank us, they’re right back in it,” Stricker said of the European team. “But getting a split and two more points was really big. Right now, it’s about getting our guys some rest; we’ll get back to the hotel, eat and get into bed.”Justin Thomas, the emotional leader of the United States team, would not predict victory but said, “All of us have the faith now.”Sergio García, Thomas’s counterpart on the European side — at least when it comes to his leadership style — was not bowed.“Everybody knows one thing: We’ll be out there until the end and we’re not going to give up,” García said of his team. “It’s going to be difficult, but I assure you we’ll give our best.”The Saturday afternoon drama was enhanced by strong winds that whipped across Whistling Straits, the Pete Dye-designed course that is devilish even in benign conditions. Some players donned woolen winter caps in the elements and others were in short sleeves. The format for the matches was four-ball, in which each golfer plays his own ball and the lower score for a team decides the result on a hole.Three of the four matches were hotly contested and one was not, as the undefeated American team of Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa cruised to a comfortable 4-and-3 victory against Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter. The combination of McIlroy, who has played in six Ryder Cups, and Poulter, a stalwart and firebrand for the Europeans since 2004, has produced an 0-2 record. McIlroy has been on the losing side of each of his three matches.Jon Rahm, left, and Sergio García of Spain have won all three of their matches as a team for Europe.Mike Segar/ReutersThe heavyweight showdown was between Spieth and his partner Koepka and the Spanish pairing of García and Rahm, the world’s top-ranked player who has been spectacular at this Ryder Cup. The Rahm-García pairing came into the match against Spieth and Koepka undefeated in their two previous matches. They did not trail in the match through 16 holes. Spieth, usually so reliable when facing pivotal putts, missed a handful of makeable birdie or par attempts that could have wrested the lead from Rahm and García, who won, 2 and 1.Like Rahm and García, their teammates Shane Lowry of Ireland and Tyrrell Hatton of England held the lead or were tied with the Americans Tony Finau and Harris English through 17 holes. Still, with the European team’s hopes of a comeback on Sunday all but hanging in the balance, Lowry faced a 10-foot uphill par putt to win the match. With a steady, rhythmic stroke, Lowry drilled the putt in the center of the hole for a 1-up victory.Not surprisingly, the most unpredictable and volatile match involved DeChambeau, who was teamed with Scottie Scheffler against Tommy Fleetwood of England and Viktor Hovland of Norway. While the lead was traded back and forth, after 14 holes the match was tied — until Scheffler sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the 15th green to give his team a one-hole edge. That lead was later extended, with Scheffler and DeChambeau eventually winning 3 and 1.The Americans, who won five of eight matches on Friday, turned in another commanding performance in Saturday morning’s foursomes matches, in which players alternate hitting the same golf ball on a hole. The Johnson-Morikawa team led for its entire match against Englishmen Paul Casey and Hatton and eventually closed out a 2-and-1 victory. The poised Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay methodically eliminated their opponents Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick of England with a string of steady pars, winning the match 2 and 1.Thomas and Spieth, who were teamed in a losing effort on Friday, were reunited with a more productive result when they came from behind against Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger, who had the edge in the first 13 holes of the match. But the Thomas-Spieth combo won four of the final five holes to claim a 2-up victory. More

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    U.S. Routs European Team to Take Back the Ryder Cup

    Collin Morikawa’s birdie putt on No. 17 secured the half-point the U.S. team needed to clinch its victory against Europe on the way to a 19-9 rout.HAVEN, Wis. — The first tee on a Ryder Cup Sunday is usually a place of high tension. But not on this Ryder Cup Sunday.When Justin Thomas stepped onto the tee for his match with Tyrrell Hatton of England, the home fans in the surrounding grandstand implored Thomas to chug a beer, as he had at the same spot Saturday afternoon when the American team built a nearly insurmountable lead ahead of the competition’s final stage.Thomas, preparing to play one of 12 climactic Sunday singles matches, smiled, but waved off the cans of beer being offered.“Yeah, later,” a fan yelled from the rollicking grandstand. “He’ll catch up on the beers later.”Yes, he would. And the Champagne, too.The U.S. golfers, beleaguered for most of the last 25 years of Ryder Cup competition, on Sunday completed a three-day rout of the normally dominant European team to win the event for just the third time this century. Though they needed to win only three and a half points on Sunday to secure the Ryder Cup trophy — each match victory is worth one point and a tie is worth half a point — the Americans attacked brazenly, capturing eight of a possible 12 available points to trounce the Europeans, 19-9.The 19 points are a record in a modern format for the event, established in 1979. The previous record was 18½ points, which was accomplished by the United States in 1981 and the Europeans in 2004 and 2006.The American Patrick Cantlay, who remained undefeated in this year’s event with a decisive 4 and 2 victory over Shane Lowry of Ireland on Sunday, summarized his team’s uncompromising attitude during the three days of competition at Whistling Straits, a daunting golf course along two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in central Wisconsin.“I woke up this morning and told the guys, ‘Let’s get 20 points,’” Cantlay said. “This is the next era of Ryder Cup teams for the U.S.A., and I wanted to send a message. Everyone on our team has a killer’s instinct and we’re going to bring that to future Cups.”Collin Morikawa added, “It was imperative that we win this Ryder Cup for American golf, but it’s not just a win, it’s a dominant win, and that matters.”The American team deliberately rode a youth movement to victory, with a roster that included eight players under 30 and six who were making their Ryder Cup debut. It was the youngest American team in the 94 years of the event and notably devoid of golf luminaries, like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who had defined the squad since the 1990s. But from 1993 until this week, those American teams had lost nine of the 12 Ryder Cups contested.With American golf — competitively and recreationally — undergoing a changing of the guard, it was fitting that the U.S. Ryder Cup team was built around nine players ranked in the top 10 of the men’s world golf rankings, who collectively have an average age of 26.2. The youngest in the group, Morikawa, 24, was undefeated in this year’s event and secured the half-point that clinched victory on Sunday afternoon. At roughly the same time, the team’s elder, Dustin Johnson, 37, won his match to become just the fifth player to have a 5-0 record in one Ryder Cup.The U.S. team celebrated with the Ryder Cup trophy after winning on the final day of the tournament.Tannen Maury/EPA, via ShutterstockFor the Europeans, the lopsided score was a shock, even if the Americans had the stronger lineup of golfers, if measured by world rankings and tournaments won this season. Jon Rahm, the top-ranked men’s golfer, was the only European player in the world top 10. Moreover, the European team relied on a bevy of Ryder Cup veterans, including four who were over 40.Ian Poulter, a fiery leader and Ryder Cup stalwart, failed to provide the emotional boost he usually brought to the team in the first two days of team matches. Although Poulter, with his 3 and 2 victory over the American Tony Finau on Sunday, remained undefeated in Ryder Cup singles matches.“Congrats to Team U.S.A., they owned each of those team sessions on Friday and Saturday,” Poulter, 45, said late Sunday afternoon. “They made it very tough on us and this week is deflating. But we’ve got good young players too, and they will take this forward. They are more than capable of coming back the next time.”The European captain, Padraig Harrington, praised his American counterpart, Steve Stricker, who adjusted the U.S. selection process so that half his team was named at his discretion. In the past, most of the players qualified by a points rubric based on many months of results. Stricker made it a point to name a team of players whose personalities meshed — and whose games were on the rise in recent weeks.“They got their plan right,” Harrington said. “Of course, we’re disappointed, but the U.S. outplayed us. You have to see the facts.”Rory McIlroy reacted after the European team’s loss to the United States on Sunday.Charlie Neibergall/Associated PressRory McIlroy, who played prominent roles in past European victories, was in tears Sunday, even after winning his singles match against Xander Schauffele. McIlroy struggled in the two opening days of the event.“I love my teammates so much and I should have done more for them this week,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been extremely disappointed that I haven’t contributed more for the team.”Wiping his eyes, McIlroy congratulated the Americans and looked forward to a rematch in two years when the Ryder Cup resumes in Italy.“The more I play in this event, the more I realize it’s the best event in golf,” he said. “Just the best.”Morikawa’s clinching point was earned in a tie with Viktor Hovland. In addition to Cantlay’s victory for the Americans, Thomas defeated Hatton, 4 and 3; Scottie Scheffler beat Rahm, 4 and 3; Bryson DeChambeau overcame Sergio Garcia, 3 and 2; Brooks Koepka defeated Bernd Wiesberger, 2 and 1; Daniel Berger rallied past Matthew Fitzpatrick, 1-up; and Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood tied.Asked about his winning management style, Stricker said: “We took away a lot of the fluff and kept things as simple as we could. We put the players together in pairings that they helped shape with their input. And they wanted to come together — they all did.”As an example, Stricker insisted that Koepka and DeChambeau, whose sniping social media feud has been an overarching story line on the PGA Tour this year, asked to play together.“That shows you how together our team had become,” Stricker said with a grin.Although Stricker never paired the two.But in a show of the spirit and camaraderie that can envelop even heated rivals during a record-setting Ryder Cup performance, as the American team was celebrating its victory Sunday — with copious amounts of alcohol — Koepka and DeChambeau slapped hands and briefly hugged.Only on a Ryder Cup Sunday. More

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    U.S. Ryder Cup Team Seizes Big Lead on a Wild Opening Day

    The action included some harrowing moments for a couple of golfers, and the gallery included Michael Jordan.HAVEN, Wis. — A snapshot panorama from the first day of the Ryder Cup would start with a crowd of 40,000 — 90 percent of it American fans because of pandemic-related travel restrictions — noisily arriving before sunrise on Friday to roar unabated for 12 hours and through eight matches that concluded in the gloaming. Patriotic costumes were in vogue, though not among the most prominent spectators in the mix: Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry.Whistling Straits, the topsy-turvy golf fun house designed by Pete Dye along Lake Michigan, almost claimed two competitors as a stumbling Jordan Spieth ended up a hop step from a Great Lakes face plant and Ireland’s Shane Lowry flopped to his backside on an embankment like a toddler on a water slide. Tiger Woods, still recovering from a devastating car crash in February, was there in spirit on Friday, having sent an inspirational message to the U.S. team on the eve of the event. Bryson DeChambeau, ever the lightning rod for attention, boomed his opening drive of the day off line and off the ankle of a spectator. Later, DeChambeau ripped a towering 417-yard drive and then helped chase down the world’s top-ranked male golfer, Jon Rahm, to earn a pivotal half point.DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?! 🤯@JordanSpieth // @RyderCupUSA 📺 Watch now on GOLF and @peacockTV💻 https://t.co/FGvI8M8F19 pic.twitter.com/wHxO9XuSKr— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) September 24, 2021
    Ultimately, the big picture would reveal that the Americans had taken control of the event by winning each of the four-match morning and afternoon sessions for a 6-2 lead over the European team. It was the largest first-day lead for the United States at the Ryder Cup since 1975, when it had a five-point lead.But that was when the Americans routinely dominated the event. Since the mid-1990s, the script has been reversed, with the Europeans having won four of the past five events and nine of the past 12.“It was good to finally get things going, and it was obviously a good start,” Steve Stricker, the U.S. nonplaying captain, said. “We’d like to win every session.”Stricker, a mild-mannered Wisconsin native not known for risky moves, took some big chances with his afternoon pairings after the Americans had built a 3-1 lead in the morning matches. Every match featured two-man teams from each side. The morning format was foursomes, in which players alternate hitting the same golf ball on a hole, while the afternoon brought a four-ball format, in which each golfer plays his own ball, and the lower score for a team decides the result on a hole.The strongest American combination in the morning was Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, two of the American team’s six Ryder Cup rookies. The pair surged to a big lead early and routed the high-profile, veteran European team of Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, 5 and 3.“I don’t know that anyone could have beaten Xander and Patrick today,” McIlroy said later.Usually when a new team is formed and has immediate success, Ryder Cup captains keep the players together and playing often. But for the afternoon matches, Stricker surprisingly had Schauffele play with Dustin Johnson, who had teamed with Collin Morikawa for an easy win in the morning. It had been expected that Stricker would keep that pair together as well.Instead, Morikawa, the reigning British Open champion, sat out the afternoon matches, as did Spieth and the team of Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger, who had been victorious in a morning match.But on Thursday, Stricker said that he had arranged his lineup for the first eight matches and that nothing that occurred in the morning session would change his plans for the afternoon. Given the pressure the Americans are under to win on home soil, few believed Stricker would stick to such a plan. But he did, and the results were impressive.Justin Thomas celebrating on the ninth green as Viktor Hovland of Norway looked on. Thomas emerged as the emotional leader of the U.S. team on Day 1.Warren Little/Getty ImagesCantlay teamed with Justin Thomas, who had played in the morning with his close friend Spieth. Cantlay, the PGA Tour player of the year, was steady, and Thomas, who appears to be the emotional leader of the American team, was fiery. But the duo was losing for most of its match against England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Norway’s Viktor Hovland. Then, with two holes remaining, Thomas rallied for a crucial putt that created a tie, which is how the match ended.The usually stoic Cantlay even showed some emotion during the round with an occasional fist pump.“I was feeding off J.T. a little bit,” Cantlay said, referring to Thomas. “He carried me around all day today, and he played great, and it was a dogfight.”Cantlay was also doing most of the post-round talking because Thomas had all but lost his voice from screaming and yelling toward the American crowd, which he did after sinking any meaningful putt.Tony Finau, left, and Harris English of the United States on the 10th green Friday afternoon. They defeated Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, 4 and 3.Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesThe Johnson-Schauffele team defeated England’s Paul Casey and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, 2 and 1. DeChambeau was paired with Scottie Scheffler in a match against Rahm and England’s Tyrrell Hatton that ended in a tie. The American team of Tony Finau and Harris English used their length off the tee and their accurate iron play to overpower McIlroy, who combined with Lowry in a 4-and-3 loss.The competition continues Saturday with another eight matches.Some of the Americans mentioned that Woods’s message had been part of the motivation for their winning play on Friday.“I’m obviously not going to reveal what he said,” Schauffele said. “But we referred to it a few times a day, and we knew what we needed to do. We knew he was fist-pumping from the couch. Whether he was on crutches or not — he’s fired up as any of us back at home.” More

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    Ryder Cup: U.S. Names Finau, Schauffele Among Six Captain's Picks

    The U.S. captain, Steve Stricker, completed the 12-man roster, which already included Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas.Six golfers were named on Wednesday to round out the 12-man American team that will compete in the latest Ryder Cup match against a team of European golfers to be played Sept. 24 to 26 at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis.The U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Steve Stricker, selected as his choices Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler.Team. Complete.With his Captain’s Picks locked, @SteveStricker selects:🇺🇸 @DanielBerger59 🇺🇸 @Harris_English 🇺🇸 @tonyfinaugolf 🇺🇸 @XSchauffele 🇺🇸 Scottie Scheffler🇺🇸 @JordanSpieth pic.twitter.com/wFGR3bw8IH— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 8, 2021
    Six golfers had already qualified for the team based on a cumulative points system linked to recent performances. They were Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay. The number of captain’s picks on the American side was increased to six from four for this edition of the competition.The European team is the defending champion after a commanding victory in 2018 in France. The European captain, Padraig Harrington, will announce his captain’s picks on Sunday. Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm have qualified automatically for the European team. The Ryder Cup is typically played every two years but was postponed in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.The American team lost for the sixth time on foreign soil in 2018, a competition that included bickering over player pairings and poor showings by three of the four optional selections made by Jim Furyk, that year’s U.S. captain. Of Furyk’s picks, only Finau (2-1) had a winning record, while Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and DeChambeau failed to win any of their matches.The United States leads the Ryder Cup series, which dates to 1927, by 26-14. But since 1985, when Europe claimed its first victory in 28 years, the United States has won only six of the 16 Ryder Cups contested, often losing by lopsided scores. When the competition has been held in the United States in recent years, the Americans have fared better, with a 3-2 record since 1999. More

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    Collin Morikawa Wins the British Open in His First Appearance

    The American golfer played a flawless final round at Royal St. George’s, holding off all challengers to finish at 15 under, two strokes ahead of Jordan Spieth.SANDWICH, England — Louis Oosthuizen had certainly paid his dues since winning the British Open in 2010, finishing as runner-up on six occasions at major championships. More

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    British Open Heads for Furious Finish With Stars Tight at the Top

    Louis Oosthuizen, Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth are battling one another — and their nerves — with just a few strokes separating them atop the leaderboard.SANDWICH, England — Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth had much in common as the third round of the British Open ended on Saturday in the sort of gentle breezes and golden, early evening light more associated with Augusta National than the English seaside. More

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    The Players to Watch at the U.S. Open

    The Open starts this week, and these are the five players, including Phil Mickelson, to keep your eyes on.In April, history was made at Augusta National Golf Club when Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese male golfer to win a major championship. As other contenders at the Masters faltered, Matsuyama shot a seven-under 65 in the third round for a 4-shot lead heading into Sunday. He won by a stroke.In May, history was made again in the P.G.A. Championship when Phil Mickelson, 50, became the oldest golfer to win a major. It was his sixth major title.Both players have never won the United States Open, but have finished second. If either of them captures this week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, history will be made again, Matsuyama as the first Japanese player to win the Open and Mickelson as the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam.Here are the players, including Mickelson, to watch at the Open, the third major of the year.Phil MickelsonAfter he won last month’s P.G.A. Championship, how can one not keep on eye on the now 51-year-old Mickelson?Mickelson’s failure to win this tournament has been well chronicled; he has finished second a record six times. None was more heartbreaking than the collapse in 2006 when a par on the final hole would have given him the championship. He ended up with a double bogey, losing by one stroke to Geoff Ogilvy.Mickelson, a San Diego native who has played Torrey Pines countless times, will likely hit his share of poor shots this week. He will also likely hit his share of wonderful shots. In other words, he will be the same person golf fans have come to expect. It will be great theater no matter what happens.Tannen Maury/EPA, via ShutterstockJon RahmRahm, leading by six strokes after three rounds, was well on his way to a victory at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio about two weeks ago when he tested positive for Covid-19. He immediately withdrew. Rahm was in isolation until June 12, when he had two negative Covid tests in a 24-hour period.The course certainly seems to fit his game. His first tour triumph was in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in 2017, where he recorded two eagles on the final six holes. The second eagle came on No. 18 when he made a 60-foot putt from the fringe, capping a seven-under 65. Earlier this year, Rahm tied for seventh at the Farmers.Rahm, the No. 3-ranked player in the world, has not won since the BMW Championship last August, but has been in good form for most of the year. Including the Genesis Invitational in February, where he tied for fifth, he has finished in the top 10 in six of his last 10 starts.He’ll have to keep his emotions in check when things go wrong, which they often do at the Open. Bogeys will come. The key will be to avoid any double bogeys or worse. Rahm, 26, is high on the list of the best players in the game who have not won a major.Jared C. Tilton/Getty ImagesBrooks KoepkaForget about the way he struggled in the final round of the P.G.A. after he seized the lead from Mickelson. Koepka, who shot a two-over 74 and finished in a tie for second, was making only his third start since knee surgery in March.Koepka, ranked No. 10, seems to always be in contention in the majors.In his last 20 majors, going back to the 2015 British Open, he has finished in the top 10 13 times, including four victories and three seconds. If he were to win this week, Koepka, 31, would become only the 20th player to capture at least five majors.It has been an up-and-down year for Koepka, who won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. He has missed the cut in five of nine tournaments.Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesDustin JohnsonGranted, Johnson, 36, hasn’t been on his game in recent months.He has recorded only one top 10 — a tie for 10th in last week’s Palmetto Championship at Congaree in South Carolina — since he finished in a tie for eighth at the Genesis Invitational. Worse yet, he missed the cut in the Masters and the P.G.A. In four rounds at those two majors, he failed to shoot lower than a 74.Johnson is the game’s No. 1-ranked player, and by a good margin. In South Carolina, he was in contention on the back nine on Sunday before he made a triple bogey on No. 16.Johnson has played extremely well in previous Opens. In addition to winning the 2016 championship, he has posted five other top 10s, including a tie for sixth last year.Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesCollin MorikawaAfter his performance in the Memorial Tournament, where he lost in a playoff to Patrick Cantlay, Morikawa is now ranked No. 4, his highest. At 24, his future is very bright.He has been on a roll since the Masters. In his last five starts, he has finished in the top 20 four times. Morikawa has missed just one cut since October. In February, he captured the WGC-Workday Championship at the Concession in Florida by three shots.Morikawa was brilliant in last year’s P.G.A. Championship. On the drivable, 294-yard par-4 16th hole, his tee shot came to a rest only seven feet away. He made the eagle putt and went on to win by two strokes over Johnson and Paul Casey. In his final two rounds, Morikawa shot a 65 and 64. More