U.S. Ryder Cup team is historic in its length (and longer than Europe)

Whistling Straits

The 18th hole at Whistling Straits, site of this year's Ryder Cup.

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Steve Stricker was introducing his six captain’s picks to the U.S. Ryder Cup team last week, and he kept coming back to the same theme:

“He brings a lot of energy, a lot of power,” Stricker said of Harris English

“Very long off the tee, which, again, we believe will fit Whistling Straits to a ‘T,’” Stricker said of Tony Finau

“Solid across the board, great competitor, long off the tee,” Stricker said of Xander Schauffele

“Another guy who is long off the tee,” Stricker said of Scottie Scheffler

When the Americans duel against the Europeans next week, they’ll do so at Whistling Straits, a par-71 that stretches out to 7,390 yards. That’s no breeze — and that’s before they turn on the fans. Winds off Lake Michigan are one of Whistling’s best defenses, and when they blow, it never hurts to be, as Stricker said: “long off the tee.”

At a historic level, the Americans are. 

English, Finau, Schauffele, Scheffler, Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas averaged 305.2 yards in driving distance last season on the PGA Tour. In a scan of U.S. Ryder Cup teams since 1981 (the year after the Tour began keeping track of driving distance), that’s the second-highest average among 20 teams, trailing only the last U.S. team, which was just longer, at 305.7 yards in 2018. 

Among this year’s bunch, DeChambeau was the longest, at 323.7 yards, and Morikawa the shortest, at 295.2. And … 

The 305.2 figure is also just over 12 feet longer than the average (301.0) of the dozen Europeans the U.S. will meet. The Euros’ longest hitter is Rory McIlroy, with a 319.0 average, while their shortest is Ian Poulter, at 285.2. (For Bernd Wiesberger, his European Tour average was used.) 

While distance gains in golf are certainly not a revelation, seeing it through the lens of the Ryder Cup is nevertheless eye-opening. Among the other takeaways:

whistling straits
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— As expected, U.S. teams have steadily increased their average distance, but not dramatically until the early 2000s. In 1981, the Americans drove it 260.3 yards per pop. In 1991, the average was 263.0. In 2002, it was 280.7. In 2012, it was 293.5. This year’s team and the 2018 group were the only two to average over 300. 

— The shortest hitter over the 40 years was Calvin Peete, with a 246.1 average in 1983. The longest was DeChambeau. 

— The first players to cross the 300-yard threshold were Tiger Woods (301.9) and Davis Love III (300.1) on the 2004 team. Since then, a 300-yard average or better has been accomplished 34 times, including by two-thirds of this year’s team. 

— Morikawa, the shortest player on this year’s team, would have led every team in driving distance until 2004. 

The average driving distances of every U.S. team since 1981: 

1981 (U.S. 18.5, Europe 9.5)

Tom Watson, 267.2
Raymond Floyd, 263.4
Bruce Lietzke, 265.8 
Tom Kite, 257.3
Hale Irwin, 251.1
Lee Trevino, 256.5 
Jerry Pate, 267.4 
Ben Crenshaw, 261.0 
Johnny Miller, 263.4 
Bill Rogers, 250.1 
Jack Nicklaus, 264.3
Larry Nelson, 256.5  
Average: 260.3

1983 (U.S. 14.5, Europe 13.5) 

Ben Crenshaw, 258.0
Raymond Floyd, 260.7
Bob Gilder, 259.9
Jay Haas, 253.5
Tom Kite, 253.2
Gil Morgan, 263.2
Calvin Peete, 246.1
Craig Stadler, 261.1
Curtis Strange, 251.6
Lanny Wadkins, 254.6
Tom Watson, 269.0
Fuzzy Zoeller, 268.8 
Average: 258.3

1985 (Europe 16.5, U.S. 11.5) 

Andy North, 259.4
Hubert Green, 251.6
Curtis Strange, 258.4
Lanny Wadkins, 261.7
Raymond Floyd, 265.1
Calvin Peete, 252.1
Mark O’Meara, 268.8
Craig Stadler, 269.3
Hal Sutton, 266.6
Peter Jacobsen, 263.0
Tom Kite, 254.9
Fuzzy Zoeller, 268.3
Average: 261.6

1987 (Europe 15, U.S. 13) 

Scott Simpson, 250.9
Larry Nelson, 259.0
Payne Stewart, 269.9
Ben Crenshaw, 263.0
Curtis Strange, 260.6
Hal Sutton, 263.9
Larry Mize, 258.8
Lanny Wadkins, 253.3
Dan Pohl, 273.0
Tom Kite, 255.1
Mark Calcavecchia, 273.1
Andy Bean, 269.8
Average: 262.5 

1989 (Europe 14, U.S. 14) 

Mark Calcavecchia, 270.6
Curtis Strange, 253.2
Chip Beck, 257.9
Payne Stewart, 264.8
Tom Kite, 255.9
Paul Azinger, 267.1
Fred Couples, 273.2
Ken Green, 261.9
Mark O’Meara, 261.5
Mark McCumber, 260.8
Tom Watson, 265.3
Lanny Wadkins, 251.4
Average: 261.9

1991 (U.S. 14.5, Europe 13.5) 

Fred Couples, 280.7
Payne Stewart, 264.4
Lanny Wadkins, 256.8
Hale Irwin, 247.6
Paul Azinger, 270.1
Corey Pavin, 252.0
Mark O’Meara, 264.6
Mark Calcavecchia, 272.6
Wayne Levi, 257.7
Steve Pate, 266.9
Chip Beck, 259.3
Raymond Floyd, 264.1
Average: 263.0

1993 (U.S. 15, Europe 13) 

Paul Azinger, 273.3
Fred Couples, 275.5
Tom Kite, 263.3
Lee Janzen, 257.1
Corey Pavin, 251.9
Payne Stewart, 269.6
John Cook, 256.2
Davis Love III, 280.2
Chip Beck, 258.2
Jim Gallagher Jr., 268.7
Raymond Floyd, 264.8 (1992)
Lanny Wadkins, 251.2
Average: 264.1 

1995 (Europe 14.5, U.S. 13.5) 

Corey Pavin, 254.9
Tom Lehman, 264.8
Davis Love III, 284.6
Phil Mickelson, 270.7
Jay Haas, 262.5
Jeff Maggert, 266.2
Loren Roberts, 255.3
Ben Crenshaw, 253.1
Peter Jacobsen, 272.9
Brad Faxon, 261.2
Curtis Strange, 255.8
Fred Couples, 276.3
Average: 264.8

1997 (Europe 14.5, U.S. 13.5) 

Tiger Woods, 294.8
Justin Leonard, 259.2
Tom Lehman, 271.4
Davis Love III, 285.8
Jim Furyk, 262.9
Phil Mickelson, 284.1
Jeff Maggert, 264.3
Mark O’Meara, 261.7
Scott Hoch, 260.7
Brad Faxon, 260.1
Lee Janzen, 270.7
Fred Couples, 283.5
Average: 271.6 

1999 (U.S. 14.5, Europe 13.5) 

Tiger Woods, 293.1
David Duval. 286.8
Payne Stewart, 266.7
Davis Love III, 283.0
Mark O’Meara, 266.9
Hal Sutton, 276.4
Justin Leonard, 271.2
Jim Furyk, 265.5
Phil Mickelson, 285.7
Jeff Maggert, 269.9
Tom Lehman, 275.6
Steve Pate, 269.7
Average: 275.8

2002 (Europe 15.5, U.S. 12.5) 

Tiger Woods, 293.3
Phil Mickelson, 288.8
David Duval, 290.8
Mark Calcavecchia, 285.5
David Toms, 279.2
Davis Love III, 287.7
Scott Hoch, 270.0
Jim Furyk, 271.8
Hal Sutton, 277.3
Stewart Cink, 279.6
Scott Verplank, 268.5
Paul Azinger, 276.2
Average: 280.7

2004 (Europe 18.5, U.S. 9.5) 

Chad Campbell, 288.0
Stewart Cink, 290.5
Chris DiMarco, 277.3
Fred Funk, 271.9
Jim Furyk, 281.1 (2003)
Jay Haas, 274.5
Davis Love III, 300.1
Phil Mickelson, 295.4
Kenny Perry, 295.9
Chris Riley, 277.3
David Toms, 285.3
Tiger Woods, 301.9
Average: 286.6 

2006 (Europe 18.5, U.S. 9.5) 

Chad Campbell, 290.9
Stewart Cink, 292.0
Chris DiMarco, 279.3
Jim Furyk, 281.9
J.J. Henry, 295.9
Zach Johnson, 283.7
Phil Mickelson, 300.7
Vaughn Taylor, 286.6
David Toms, 285.4
Scott Verplank, 276.1
Brett Wetterich, 307.8
Tiger Woods, 306.4
Average: 290.5 

2008 (U.S. 16.5, Europe 11.5) 

Phil Mickelson, 295.7
Stewart Cink, 296.9
Kenny Perry, 296.0
Jim Furyk, 280.4
Anthony Kim, 300.9
Justin Leonard, 281.4
Ben Curtis, 284.7
Boo Weekley, 291.7
Steve Stricker, 283.6
Hunter Mahan, 289.9
J. B. Holmes, 310.3
Chad Campbell, 289.9
Average: 291.7 

2010 (Europe 14.5, U.S. 13.5) 

Phil Mickelson, 299.1
Hunter Mahan, 291.8
Bubba Watson, 309.8
Jim Furyk, 276.0
Steve Stricker, 282.9
Dustin Johnson, 308.5
Jeff Overton, 297.3
Matt Kuchar, 286.9
Zach Johnson, 279.7
Tiger Woods, 298.4 (2009)
Stewart Cink, 292.4 
Rickie Fowler, 292.7
Average: 292.9 

2012 (Europe 14.5, U.S. 13.5) 

Tiger Woods, 297.4
Bubba Watson, 315.5
Jason Dufner, 292.4
Keegan Bradley, 302.7
Webb Simpson, 288.6
Zach Johnson, 281.1
Matt Kuchar, 286.2
Phil Mickelson, 294.4
Steve Stricker, 285.4
Jim Furyk, 280.0
Brandt Snedeker, 288.7
Dustin Johnson, 310.2
Average: 293.5 

2014 (Europe 16.5, U.S. 11.5) 

Bubba Watson, 314.3
Rickie Fowler, 297.5
Jim Furyk, 279.3
Jimmy Walker, 301.0
Phil Mickelson, 292.4
Matt Kuchar, 283.8
Jordan Spieth, 289.7
Patrick Reed, 292.3
Zach Johnson, 282.2
Keegan Bradley, 302.2
Webb Simpson, 288.5
Hunter Mahan, 295.8
Average: 293.2

2016 (U.S. 17, Europe 11) 

Dustin Johnson, 313.6
Jordan Spieth, 295.4
Phil Mickelson, 294.8
Patrick Reed, 297.4
Jimmy Walker, 301.3
Brooks Koepka, 302.6
Brandt Snedeker, 292.6
Zach Johnson, 280.1
J.B. Holmes, 314.5
Rickie Fowler, 301.6
Matt Kuchar, 285.8
Ryan Moore, 283.2
Average: 296.9

2018 (Europe 17.5, U.S 10.5) 

Brooks Koepka, 313.4
Dustin Johnson, 314.0
Justin Thomas, 311.8
Patrick Reed, 298.1
Bubba Watson, 313.1
Jordan Spieth, 299.8
Rickie Fowler, 299.8
Webb Simpson, 293.7
Bryson DeChambeau, 305.7
Phil Mickelson, 300.3
Tiger Woods, 303.6
Tony Finau, 315.1
Average: 305.7

2021 U.S. 

Daniel Berger, 296.7
Patrick Cantlay, 302.8
Bryson DeChambeau, 323.7
Harris English, 299.4
Tony Finau, 305.5
Dustin Johnson, 312.9
Brooks Koepka, 310.7
Collin Morikawa, 295.2
Xander Schauffele, 307.6
Scottie Scheffler, 305.0
Jordan Spieth, 299.5
Justin Thomas, 303.9
Average: 305.2

2021 Europe

Jon Rahm, 309.0
Tommy Fleetwood, 300.8
Bernd Wiesberger, 297.2
Tyrrell Hatton, 299.0
Rory McIlroy, 319.0
Matthew Fitzpatrick, 293.5
Paul Casey, 303.9
Viktor Hovland, 302.2
Lee Westwood, 294.1
Sergio Garcia, 309.4
Shane Lowry, 299.6
Ian Poulter. 285.2
Average: 301.0

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor