The U.S.’s best player offered hints at larger Ryder Cup disaster
ROME — Scottie Scheffler lingered next to the 18th green for a long while on Ryder Cup Sunday.
He combed through his bag slowly, inspecting tees and ball marks, one by one, until there were no more to toss away in the pond to his right. The crowd had long since moved on from the conclusion of his match, a thriller with Europe’s Jon Rahm, but for the moment Scheffler seemed unwilling to do the same.
If you were looking for clues to explain how the U.S. found itself on the wrong side of yet another European Ryder Cup loss, you didn’t have to look much further than this scene on the 18th. On one side of the green, Rahm thrust his fists into the air triumphantly before disappearing into a golf cart bound back for the course. On the other, Scheffler sat around for a long while, making quiet small talk before disappearing into the U.S. team room.
These were the scope of emotions surrounding a tie, Scheffler and Rahm’s second of the week — both of which left Scheffler feeling like the loser, even though the scoreboard said otherwise.
The first blow came on Friday evening, when Rahm poured in a 40-footer on the 18th for eagle to steal a halve for the Europeans like a bandit — moving the score at the end of Day 1 from a European lead to a European blowout. The last came on Sunday morning, when Scheffler and Rahm found themselves in a deathmatch to start the suddenly competitive Sunday singles. This time Scheffler had done the damage himself, blowing a greenside chip from a tricky lie well long of the green. Rahm didn’t make a mistake over three days in the tournament, and he wasn’t about to start on his last hole of the week. He got up and down nonchalantly for birdie, while Scheffler missed the chip coming back to win the match. It was another halve for Scheffler, who suddenly looked up at the scoreboard to see his Americans were running out of time.
A few hours later, Rickie Fowler conceded a short putt to Tommy Fleetwood and two things suddenly became official: the Europeans had won the Ryder Cup, and the United States’ best player had been held winless at a team event … again.
The second thing (Scheffler) might ultimately be less significant than the first (the result of this Ryder Cup), but the two are related in a way that is closer than anyone on the U.S. side would like to admit. The truth is that Scheffler has now gone two full team events for the United States without a single match victory, an 0-5-3 record since the start of the 2022 Presidents Cup that directly correlates with his ascension to becoming arguably the best golfer in the world.
Included in that stretch is the absolute undressing Scheffler and his partner Brooks Koepka faced in their morning foursomes match against Ludvig Aberg and Viktor Hovland on Saturday — a session in which the United States desperately needed to mount a comeback, and in which Aberg and Hovland slammed the door shut with the largest margin of victory in an alternate shot match ever in the Ryder Cup, 9 and 7.
“After finishing on the 11th hole yesterday, I had plenty of time to rest and get ready for this morning,” Scheffler said with a grim chuckle on Sunday evening. “Pretty much all there is to say.”
No, the 9 and 7 victory didn’t singlehandedly sink the Americans, and by all accounts it was a historical aberration for two of the best players on the whole U.S. roster. But the thing about the Ryder Cup is that every match and every player matters. The best teams find a way to turn losses into halves; the losing teams find ways to turn halves into losses.
The Americans were the losing team this week for a number of reasons, but Scheffler’s profile makes him one of the biggest. Ryder Cups, after all, are won and lost by the stars. And in a week in which the Europeans rode their best players — Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy — to 10.5 points, the Americans rode Scheffler to a measly one.
That wasn’t good enough, even if Scheffler wasn’t necessarily bad in any of the matches he’d played — well, except for that Saturday morning match, which Scottie himself admitted was “terrible.”
“It’s a tough week, and sometimes you get on the wrong side of things,” Scheffler said. “It was pretty tough.”
It is tough, and tougher now that the Americans enter two long years of questioning before the Ryder Cup returns to Bethpage in New York. The U.S. will be the favorite there, too, and barring disaster, Scheffler will be part of the roster equation.
The question now is what shape his role on that roster will take. There isn’t another player of Scheffler’s ball-striking ability walking through the door for the U.S., but there may be a few more who can rattle in testy 10-footers with ease. The Americans needed more of those this weekend in Rome — and they’ll need ’em again if they’re going to stare down the Rahm/McIlroy/Hovland trifecta in earnest in ’25. Losing 9 and 7 won’t be an option again then — and it shouldn’t have been now, not for a player of Scheffler’s caliber.
Scheffler knows this. It’s why he was spotted crying in a cart next to his wife, Meredith, in the aftermath of the walloping.
“I was emotional after the round because I care a lot about this tournament,” he said. “At the time I felt like I was letting these guys down.”
That was difficult, but the harder pill to swallow came after the beatdown was done, when U.S. captain Zach Johnson elected to sit Scheffler for Saturday afternoon fourballs — the second time in the last two team events that Scheffler has found himself on the bench in the midst of a winless weekend.
Scheffler left the course and returned to the team room then, watching hopelessly as the U.S.’s best session of the week came in the lone one in which he did not participate.