Column: Not time to celebrate Ryder Cup win just yet

Sep 25, 2021, 5:35 AM | Updated: 6:33 pm

Team USA's Collin Morikawa makes a putt on the 15th hole during a four-ball match the Ryder Cup at ...

Team USA's Collin Morikawa makes a putt on the 15th hole during a four-ball match the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Sheboygan, Wis. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — Their day was done and, as the afternoon matches teed off, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger were playing to the crowd. They tossed a few beers to the thousands packed into the stands around the first tee at Whistling Straits, then drew cheers from everyone in red, white and blue by chugging a couple themselves.

Great players, great teammates, great fun. In some ways, the scene epitomized the Ryder Cup at its raucous best.

If only it came late on a Sunday afternoon.

There will be plenty of time to celebrate then, assuming things keep going the U.S. way. Plenty of people to celebrate with, too, judging from the massive galleries this week on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The heavy lifting has, for the most part, been done. The Americans have a historic 11-5 lead that will be extremely difficult — if not impossible — to overcome.

Still, there’s work to do. History suggests it might not be as easy as it looks.

Which begs the question: Just what were they thinking?

There’s no reason to celebrate early when Jon Rahm is making almost every putt he sees. No reason to think it’s locked up when Ian Poulter can’t wait to start pumping his fist and leading a charge in Sunday’s singles.

And no need to hand over the Ryder Cup until Europe has its final say in singles.

“We’re still not out of it,” Shane Lowry said after making a putt on the 18th hole to give Europe one of its points. “It’s a long day tomorrow, 12 matches. If any 12 of us were going out against any of them in the match play, we would fancy our chances. We just have to believe.”

Actually, belief is about all the Europeans have left because the U.S. needs just 3.5 points to regain the cup on home soil. The American team includes 12 of the top 21 players in the world and, barring catastrophe, should be able to deliver.

But golf is a funny game. It’s unpredictable, and the Ryder Cup is being played on a golf course that makes it even more of a crapshoot.

Strange things can happen, especially if the wind blows. Momentum can be huge should a few European players get going early.

That’s what happened in 2012 at Medinah outside of Chicago when Europe won the first five singles matches, and Ian Poulter took down Matt Kuchar early to set the tone. Down 10-6, the Europeans would go on to win 14 1/2-13 ½.

It’s what happened in 1999 in Boston when Ben Crenshaw famously predicted his team wasn’t done yet and the Americans overcame a 10-6 deficit to win by the same score.

Still, no team has ever come from more than four points down on the final day to win. That’s what made Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler coming from behind to beat Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland in the final match on the course Saturday even more important.

“The potential of it being 10-6 again like it was at Medinah for us to be able to flip that match was huge,” said Scheffler, obviously a student of golf history. “And to be able to win the last match on Saturday was good momentum as well.”

Indeed, all indications are that Sunday will be a mere coronation for a U.S team that has played up to massive expectations this week — and more. Until all the putts are holed and the totals added up, though, the Europeans can still dream.

“It’s going to take a beyond monumental effort,” Poulter said. “So we need a couple of miracles.”

The bad news for the Europeans, of course, is that they’ve dug themselves into an immense hole. The putts that dropped in their dominant win in Paris three years ago didn’t fall at nearly the same rate in the team matches here.

Even worse is that every U.S. player has contributed points and there are no weak links in the 12 singles matches for Europe to exploit.

“The lead that we have created is huge,” DeChambeau said. “We haven’t had this good of an opportunity in a long time and hopefully we can get the job done tomorrow.”

Hopefully, indeed. Losing this one would be the equivalent of blowing a three-touchdown lead in the final minute to lose an NFL game.

No one wants to be part of an epic collapse. No one wants to lose a point, much less a chance at the cup itself.

Nothing will be taken for granted. The U.S. players will grind it out from the first tee on, and their talent — paired with a big lead — will surely carry the day.

And when it’s all done, they can celebrate the way they’re supposed to — drinking out of the Ryder Cup late on a Sunday afternoon.


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Column: Not time to celebrate Ryder Cup win just yet