Pebble Beach, Calif. — In a Ryder Cup battle between Washington’s young guns and Europe’s grandkids, the United States showed its depth when it needed it most.
Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg made it interesting with an eagle 2 on the 18th hole, but the towering Dustin Johnson held the spotlight, leading the United States to a victory over Europe in the foursomes competition.
Johnson, 25, joined two of the reigning U.S. champions, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, and Rickie Montgomery and Matt Kuchar, helping the U.S. to an 8½-6½ win over Europe in the competition at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. In each of the previous Ryder Cups, two Americans (Andy North and Curtis Strange in 1988, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III in 1999) had matched off with two Europeans in the famous first-two-holes’ free-for-all. Johnson was the sixth player from the top 25 in the world to compete in a Ryder Cup.
“We just wanted to win this tournament together,” Johnson said. “It didn’t matter if they were the (older) guys, or the rookies. We wanted to win it together and that’s what we did.”
Looking to keep Europe from wrapping up the matches, Spieth and Fowler got off to a strong start. They parred the first two holes, but Broberg and Ian Poulter birdied No. 2 to make it all square at the turn. Then Broberg made a 35-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole to narrow the gap to 2-up.
But that was as close as it got for Europe, which lost the remaining matches, 6&5, 7&6, 6&5, 5&4, and 4&3, as the U.S. amassed an 8½-6½ lead.
“We kind of had a talk about this day,” Johnson said. “It was all the first two holes. We went up and then we went down. We just knew, for any team to come back in Ryder Cup matches, we had to win those last two holes. We had to really go.”
The key two holes for the Americans were No. 18. The first one saw Lee Westwood and Paul Casey make par and halve the hole, but Europe got its momentum back after Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson bogeyed the 17th and Johnson and Jay Haas bogeyed No. 18. Watson and Haas played alongside a 39-year-old (Johnson) and a 41-year-old (Watson) and were 2 up after six holes. After Johnson was matched with Callum Shinkwin, he became the third-youngest player in Ryder Cup history to post a point at 26 years, 190 days old.
“Dustin got a big point and made a huge putt for us,” Ryder Cup rookie Billy Horschel said. “Obviously he’s been unbelievable all week and today was another one of those iconic moments.”
“He’s been outstanding all week,” Phil Mickelson said. “He just really set it up for us. I was very proud of him today. Obviously, he doesn’t play my way, but I’m extremely proud of him because when he’s playing that way, he sets up everything around it well.”
After Holbert and Erik Compton had an epic 13-hole match against Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood, it was Johnson and Kuchar against Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose. Both teams struggled early before Johnson won the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to break the deadlock. While the crowd started filing out, he closed with a birdie on the 18th, and Kuchar also birdied the final hole.
“I never felt this type of energy,” Johnson said. “I mean, my wedding was more fired up.”
After a record 109 players were eligible for the U.S. team this week, world No. 1 Johnson, No. 9 Spieth and No. 11 Fowler join Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed on a team that remains unblemished against the European greats.