KOHLER, Wisconsin – The U.S. Ryder Cup team has an 11-5 lead, and buzz around Whistling Straits indicates a change of guard could be expected in Sunday’s singles matches. But the Europeans are unlikely to hand over the Cup without a fight.
Both captains have now submitted their rosters for Sunday’s final match-up session, and we know who the 12 players from each team will face. While each singles match counts the same in the final points tally, some have a little more intrigue than others.
Here are the four games that interest me the most on the Straits Course, where the Americans hope to spark a celebration in front of partisan crowds while the Europeans remain hopeful of pulling off a historic upheaval:
Match 1 (11:04 am CT): Xander Sc Chaudele (United States) v Rory McIlroy (Europe)
It’s no surprise to see McIlroy leading the way. He’s now first for Europe in three consecutive Ryder Cups, and he never started after third on Sunday. What’s surprising, however, is seeing McIlroy’s current iteration: seemingly listless and almost austere, having gone 0-3 in team play with none of his matches even reaching the 16th.e tee.
If the Europeans are to have a chance to turn the tide, it will have to start here with their emotional leader. But the Americans also fought back with force, trotting ScHotele looking to go 4-0 on his Ryder Cup debut. A ScHotele point here would signal an informal end to a week to forget for McIlroy and push the Americans to the brink of victory.
Game 4 (11:37 CT): Bryson DeChambeau (United States) vs. Sergio Garcia (Europe)
Talk about intrigue. DeChambeau reveled in the spotlight of his first Ryder Cup at home, putting fans on their feet with breathtaking workouts with consistency. He secured the first full point of his Ryder Cup career with a comeback victory on Saturday afternoon alongside Scottie Scheffler, and now he draws the most points in Ryder Cup history for his last match.
Garcia was a revelation this week, stepping back in time while going 3-on-3 alongside compatriot Jon Rahm. A 4-0 week would exceed even the wildest expectations for the 41-year-old, and it may be necessary to keep hope for a European comeback. But if nothing else, this match will offer a fascinating case study in two very different styles of approach to the Straits Course.
Match 5 (11:48 CT): Collin Morikawa (United States) vs. Viktor Hovland (Europe)
If you love the sound of a perfectly struck 5 iron, this is the game for you. Morikawa and Hovland both make their Ryder Cup debuts this week, but seem likely to be playing games for years, if not decades, to come. Now they will face off in a compelling singles match, with Morikawa looking to go 4-0 this week while Hovland hope to save a start that has been good at times but not good enough overall.
Morikawa already has two majors under his belt, including the 2020 PGA Championship, and Hovland himself has all the assets of a future great champion. This could be the first of many times these two have faced off in a Ryder Cup setting.
Game 6 (11:59 am CT): Dustin Johnson (United States) vs. Paul Casey (Europe)
Can DJ make a clean sweep? The only American to appear in all five sessions, Johnson has a perfect 4-0 record thanks to team play as the world No.2 used his calm demeanor to fuel a moving performance throughout the week. He will face Casey, as the veteran England looks to avoid a sweep of the other kind after losing all of his three tag team matches.
It is also no coincidence that US captain Steve Stricker has placed Johnson, his best player this week, at the heart of the singles roster. If things turn out the way they did in the first four sessions, there’s a good chance Johnson is in a position to win the Ryder Cup – a fitting honor for the oldest statesman in an incredibly young American team that has handled its load admirably on the first two days.