At Presidents Cup, more affirmation we’re in good old days of American golf
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Is this what the beginning of an American golden age looks like?
With Jordan Spieth, the American Kid, tearing through his final piece of match play scar tissue?
Incredibly, Spieth rose on Sunday at the Presidents Cup as a winless player in Sunday singles matches, his 0-6-1 record the lone blemish in what is quickly becoming a historic resume. He’d won four straight matches to start the week at Quail Hollow, and with the Internationals clinging to their first bit of life since the tournament began, Davis Love III made the decision to ride the hot hand, starting Spieth second against red-hot Aussie Cameron Davis.
Spieth stumbled early, spraying his ball all over the first two holes to quickly fall 2 down. But then he turned for the 4th tee box, and the switch flipped. He won seven of his next 11 holes with five birdies and closed out Davis tidily, 4 and 3.
The weight was lifted — Spieth showed as much when he removed his cap in appreciation of the American faithful during his stroll down the 15th fairway — but the job was not finished. Not yet, at least. For that, Spieth would need the help of his teammates. He turned to his family as he walked off the green.
“I’m headed up to 17.”
It would take two more hours for the Americans to win their ninth straight Presidents Cup, besting the International side by a final tally of 17.5-12.5. But in that moment, victory was inevitable. With this cropping of American golf, there are no underdog stories and there are no comebacks. There is only dominance. Unrelenting, unfailing, unabating dominance.
This, after all, is what the Americans are supposed to do. Dominate. Vegas had them as -700 favorites at the beginning of the week, and by the end of the Thursday afternoon session, the odds had dipped well into four figures.
In real life, the American victory was even more impressive than the one handed to them at the beginning of the week. Under captain Trevor Immelman’s leadership, the Internationals proved pesky, stealing the Saturday evening session in dramatic fashion and entering Sunday trailing by only four points. The Americans were suddenly on the ropes and facing an opponent with everything to gain. And how did captain Davis Love III respond?
By tapping the U.S.’s new core four: Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. The same group that delivered the Americans the Presidents Cup in Australia in 2019 and the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits a year ago. The four players won three matches on Sunday afternoon in what amounted to the 13th, 14th and tournament-clinching 16th points for the American side. They alone were responsible for 10 of the Americans’ 17.5 points.
But more than any one stat, this foursome’s breed of golf has quickly amounted to a new U.S. identity. The Americans can bludgeon you with ball-striking force (Schauffele), they can match your every shotmaking whim (Thomas), they can finesse you into oblivion (Spieth) and when all that fails, they can do some combination of the three (Cantlay). They are golf’s everyteam, and they can beat you whichever way you choose. Or they choose.
Including in the team room, where Schauffele and Cantlay and Spieth and Thomas represent two of golf’s closest friendships. The talent exists on its own merit, but the chemistry exists because the players want it to exist. It’s an energy that has quickly seeped into the team’s youngest players.
“I think that the biggest challenge for us this week was staying within ourselves and not letting the outside noise get to us,” Spieth admitted. “Everybody focused on their matches. Everybody wanted to be the one setting the pace or the ones — if you were in the back couple matches of the day — that were showing off for the rest of the team on the last couple, and didn’t focus on any of the outside noise.”
After so many dark nights, this is how dawn looks for the Americans. With a young, blisteringly talented group that will have to be beaten to lose.
“What was so cool, which has been very consistent in the previous few Cups that I’ve been involved in, which is everyone’s really, really good at what they do,” Spieth said. “Stay to your routine, do what you normally do to prepare for the biggest tournaments, and they did that. Nobody took anything lightly. They went through the same routine that I’ve seen guys go through for the final round of the Masters when they’re in the final group. To do that for your team and country was super cool to watch.”
“We’ve traded ping-pong tables in for ice baths,” captain Davis Love III agreed.
The question now becomes whether their goodwill can travel. Much of this American team will find itself in Rome next fall for the Ryder Cup, where the U.S. will attempt to win on European soil for the first time since 1993. That’s a different kind of test for this American team, one that will take every ounce of mettle and strategy and skill to overcome, even in a down year for the Europeans.
“It’s a tall task to ask, going over there,” Spieth said. “I mean, I’ve played in a couple of away games now, and they’re very different. But I mean, I’d take this team over there against anybody in the world.”
After it was over, but before the party had truly begun, Jordan Spieth enjoyed the view from the mountaintop.
Or something like that.
There he sat, rear-end against the front of a U.S. team golf cart, beckoning toward his teammates.
“C’mon guys,” he said. “Let’s go see Collin.”
Soon, Spieth was joined in the golf cart by three of his teammates — Thomas, Schauffele and Cantlay — and their partners. Their bodies jammed awkwardly as the eight bodies strained to fit in a cart built for four. After some Tetris, they were all settled, and Thomas began to drive away.
The group toasted as they drove into the distance, an odd eightsome, to be sure, but a happy one.
Is this what the beginning of an American golden age looks like?
No. It’s no longer the beginning.