Dustin Johnson’s stellar Ryder Cup showing offers sweet redemption

Elder statesman of US team won all five matches at scene of disappointment in 2010

Dustin Johnson after beating Paul Casey in the Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Dustin Johnson after beating Paul Casey in the Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

 

For all the talk of the youth movement that powered the United States to a record-breaking victory over Europe at the Ryder Cup and its first consecutive wins on home soil since 1979 and 1983, it was the team’s elder statesman who made the biggest individual impact.

Dustin Johnson, the world No2 and the oldest member of an American team whose average age is barely 29, became only the fifth player to win all five matches in a single Ryder Cup and the first American in more than four decades - an elite class that includes Arnold Palmer in 1967, Gardner Dickinson in 1967, Larry Nelson in 1979 and Francesco Molinari three years ago.

Additionally, the 37-year-old South Carolinian becomes the first player in the history of golf’s biennial matchplay showcase to complete the five-for-five sweep as the oldest member of his team. The only players to win even as many as four were Julius Boros (1965), Dickinson (1971) and Lee Trevino (1981).

“Obviously this is the first team where I was the oldest,” Johnson said afterward. “On the other teams I felt like I was a younger guy on the team. A little different dynamic. The guys all got along great. We all have one thing in common, we do not like to lose. We had a great week, and it showed.”

As the Spaniard Jon Rahm grabbed headlines for single-handedly strapping Europe to his back during the first two days on Lake Michigan’s western shores, Johnson was just as good in winning his first four outings while paired three times with Collin Morikawa and once with Xander Schauffele, helping the United States race out to a historic two-day lead.

Threadbare hopes

Then came Sunday’s singles matches, where the roars that came up from all over the grounds from the earliest stages made it clear there would be no repeat of the Americans’ collapse at Medinah on which Europe’s threadbare hopes were fixed. Among the loudest of them all were for Johnson, who elicited chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P” from the rowdy masses as he made an effective victory lap around the same Straits Course where he frittered away a shot at his first major championship in 2010.

“Starting the week, if you had told me I was going to go 5-0-0, I probably would have said you were crazy. I didn’t think I was going to play five matches,” said Johnson, who racked up eight birdies in a one-hole win over England’s Paul Casey. “But obviously it was a great week. The team played amazing. All of us came together and we only wanted to win it. I think we just wanted it a little bit more.”

The resounding triumph offered measures of personal satisfaction for the quiet Johnson, whose lifetime record across two previous Ryder Cup appearances was an ordinary 7-9-0, that mirrored Team USA’s broader redemption arc. Three years ago in the Paris suburbs, Johnson came in as the world No 1 and won only one of five matches as the Americans were taken behind the woodshed at Le Golf National. “It’s obviously a lot more fun when you win,” he said.

Sunday’s runaway triumph also took place at the same venue where Johnson held a one-shot lead after 71 holes at the 2010 US PGA Championship. After appearing to bogey the 72nd and fall into a three-hole playoff with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer, he was given a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in one of the Straits Course’s countless bunkers.

Bandleader

Nearly six years would pass from that avoidable rules blunder until he won his first of two career major titles at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont.

Now he’s the bandleader of a swashbuckling US team that has delivered a portentous statement of intent for years to come.

“This week, yes, we had a lot of young guys, but they are young and they are rookies on the Ryder Cup, but it didn’t feel like they were just because they have all played well in such big moments and big tournaments that it didn’t feel like they were rookies,” he said. “And they didn’t play like they were rookies. They stepped up to the plate and they all wanted it.

“Like Xander and all of us have all said all week, the one thing we all have in common is we all hate to lose. And so that’s how we came together, and we all played like it.” - Guardian

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