CHARLOTTE, NC – Is this what the dawn of an American golden age looks like?
With Jordan Spieth, the American Kid, ripping through his last bit of matchplay scar tissue?
Incredibly, Spieth advanced to Sunday’s Presidents Cup as a winless player in Sunday’s singles games, his 0-6-1 record the only blemish in what is quickly becoming a historic resume. Earlier in the week he had won four straight matches at Quail Hollow, and with the Internationals clinging to their first stint since the tournament began, Davis Love III made the decision to ride the hot hand and start Spieth second against Red Hot Australian Cameron Davis.
Spieth stumbled early and splattered his ball down the first two holes to quickly drop 2 down. But then he turned to the 4th tee and the switch flipped. He won seven of his next 11 holes with five birdies and finished Davis neatly, 4 and 3.
The weight was lifted – Spieth demonstrated it when he took off his cap during his walk down the 15th fairway to pay tribute to the American faithful – but the work wasn’t finished. At least not yet. For this, Spieth needed the help of his teammates. He turned to his family as he left the green.
“I’m approaching 17.”
It would be two hours before the Americans would win their ninth straight Presidents Cup, beating the international side by a final score of 17.5-12.5. But at that moment victory was inevitable. In this breed of American golf, there are no underdogs and no comebacks. There is only dominance. Relentless, unfailing, unremitting dominance.
It’s the Americans, after all target make. Dominate. Vegas had them as -700 favorites earlier in the week, and by the end of Thursday afternoon’s session the odds were well down into the four figures.
In real life, the American victory was even more impressive than the one handed to them earlier in the week. Led by captain Trevor Immelman, the Internationals proved a nuisance, stealing Saturday night’s session in dramatic fashion and going into Sunday just four points adrift. The Americans were suddenly on the ropes and faced an opponent who had everything to gain. And how did Captain Davis Love III react?
By tapping into America’s new core foursome: Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. The same group that gave the Americans the Presidents Cup in Australia in 2019 and the Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits a year ago. The four players won three games Sunday afternoon, earning the 13th, 14th and tournament-determining 16th point for the American team. They alone were responsible for 10 of the Americans’ 17.5 points.
But more than any other statistic, this foursome’s style of golfing has quickly evolved into a new US identity. The Americans can thrash you with ball power (Schauffele), they can smooth you out on any shotmaker’s whim (Thomas), they can cast you into oblivion (Spieth), and if all of that fails, they can do a combination of the three (Cantlay). They’re golf’s all-around team and can beat you any way. Or you choose.
This is also the case in the team room, where Schauffele and Cantlay as well as Spieth and Thomas represent two of the closest friendships in golf. The talent exists on its own, but the chemistry exists because of the players want it to exist. It’s an energy that has quickly seeped into the team’s youngest players.
“I think the biggest challenge for us this week was staying with us and not letting the noise from outside get to us,” Spieth admitted. “Everyone was focused on their games. Everyone wanted to be the one setting the pace, or the ones – if you were in the back few games of the day – leading the rest of the team on the last pair and not focusing on any outside noise.”
After so many dark nights, this is what dawn looks like for Americans. With a young, incredibly talented group that needs to be beat to lose.
“What’s been so cool, that’s been very consistent in the last few cups I’ve been involved in, that’s that everyone is really, really good at what they do,” said Spieth. “Stick to your routine, do what you normally do to prepare for the biggest tournaments and they did. No one took anything lightly. They went through the same routine that I’ve seen guys in the last round of the Masters when they’re in the last group. To do that for his team and his country was super cool to watch.”
“We traded ping-pong tables for ice baths,” agreed Captain Davis Love III.
Now the question is whether her goodwill can travel. Much of this American team will find themselves in Rome for next fall’s Ryder Cup, where the US will attempt to win on European soil for the first time since 1993. It’s a different kind of test for this American team, one that will stand up to any ounce of courage and strategy and skill to overcome, even in a bad year for the Europeans.
“It’s a big task to ask that when you go there,” said Spieth. “I mean, I’ve played a few away games now and they’re very different. But I mean, I would run that team over there against anyone in the world.”
After it was over but before the party had really started, Jordan Spieth enjoyed the view from the mountaintop.
Or something like that.
There he sat, with the back of his head against the front of a US team golf cart, waving to his teammates.
“Come on guys,” he said. “Let’s go to Collin.”
Spieth was soon joined by three of his teammates – Thomas, Schauffele and Cantlay – and their partners in the golf cart. Their bodies clamped awkwardly as the eight bodies struggled to fit into a cart built for four people. After some Tetris, they were all settled and Thomas started driving away.
The group bumped into each other as they headed into the distance, an odd eight to be sure but a lucky one.
Is this the beginning of an American golden age?
no It’s not the beginning anymore.