HAVEN, WISCONSIN | Scottie Scheffler never doubted that he belonged on the United States Ryder Cup team, even though he was brought to tears when captain Steve Stricker officially asked him three weeks ago.
When Scheffler took down world No. 1 Jon Rahm, 4 and 3, in their Sunday singles match, highlighting the American landslide at Whistling Straits, Scheffler provided a signature moment to both the team and his career.
Rahm had been one of Europe’s few bright spots at Whistling Straits but the Spaniard was no match for Scheffler, who ambushed him with a flurry of birdies to start the match, building a sudden 4-up lead.
Scheffler became the first American player to knock off the world’s top-ranked player in Ryder Cup singles since Chip Beck beat Ian Woosnam 30 years ago. Not bad for a guy who was only the second American player to be added to the Ryder Cup roster without having a PGA Tour victory.
“I just kept the pressure on all day,” Scheffler said.
Scheffler finished with a 2-0-1 record in his first Ryder Cup. He filled what some thought would be a difficult role – teaming with Bryson DeChambeau – and the two worked well together.
They tied their first four-ball match against Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, then beat Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland, 3 and 1, on Saturday.
“I had a great partner in Scottie,” DeChambeau said. “He helped me a lot.”
Scheffler was one of six Ryder Cup rookies who combined to post a 14-4-3 record, exploding the notion that experience wins Ryder Cups. Captain Steve Stricker felt so good about his first-time players that he sent out four of them – Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Scheffler and Collin Morikawa – in the first five singles matches Sunday in an attempt to end it early.
Looking at the Sunday lineup, Dustin Johnson delivered a simple message to Scheffler:
“I told him before he went out, ‘Go put it to him,’ ” Johnson said. “Jon is one of their leaders, and he is world No. 1. He’s played unbelievable this week. One thing that could really push the U.S. team was Scottie going out and beating their best player.”
Rahm tried to make a match of it against Scheffler but he found himself in too big a hole too early.
“What can you do when somebody has five birdies in the first six holes?” Rahm said. “It’s not like I was playing bad golf. It wasn’t my best, but it wasn’t my worst, either. Hitting good putts. They just weren’t dropping in.
“I had my opportunity in the match from No. 7 on, from ’til, let’s say, (No.) 12. I had my chances. He opened the door a little bit, and I just didn’t take advantage of it.”
Ron Green Jr.