After a promising start Friday, the United States faltered and Europe reclaimed the Ryder Cup. The Europeans clinched the Cup Sunday with another strong performance in the singles matches.
Europe defended home soil and won 17 1/2 to 10 1/2. It was the largest margin of victory since the 2006 Ryder Cup, when the Europeans defeated the Americans by nine, 18 1/2 to 9 1/2.
There were some encouraging moments for the Americans, but it's another sour defeat in the clash between golf's best players.
Here are five takeaways from the United States' latest defeat in the Ryder Cup:
(1) Americans need to get more familiar with European venues. You could point to the Friday morning matches as a counterpoint to this argument, but the rest of the weekend helps defend it. The Europeans clearly knew this golf course better than their American counterparts. Le Golf National isn't a venue Americans are used to playing. The course hosted the French Open earlier this year. The only American Ryder Cup player who entered that event? Justin Thomas, who went 4-1 and was the United States' best player in his first appearance.
In 2022, the Ryder Cup will be held in Italy. The Europeans will have an advantage again. The Americans need to make more of an effort to play at that course. It might take sacrificing an appearance in the states, but if they are interested in snapping their losing streak in Ryder Cups held outside the U.S., they will need to see more of the course before the three-day competition four years from now.
(2) The United States shouldn't overreact to this loss. After the loss four years ago, there were calls for a shakeup and those wishes were granted. This time around, there doesn't need to be a drastic response. In most cases, great players simply didn't show up and it doesn't help when Tiger Woods, who was fresh off winning his 80th PGA Tour tournament, went 0-for-4 in his matches.
There were a few encouraging moments, though. Thomas was the Americans' best player, which shouldn't be a surprise. He's been one of the most consistent U.S. players over the past year or so. He continued that at the Ryder Cup. Tony Finau went 2-1, including a singles victory over Tommy Fleetwood. Fleetwood has been one of the more consistent players in the world and was a force at the Ryder Cup. Finau was the better player on Sunday, though.
Overall, Jim Furyk was a solid captain. There were some decisions worth questioning, but the bottom line is the U.S. players didn't deliver, especially Friday afternoon and Saturday.
(3) Phil Mickelson didn't belong there. It was probably difficult for Furyk to not use one of his captain picks on Mickelson, a Ryder Cup veteran and one of the best players of this generation. But Mickelson, at 48, isn't what he used to be. There were better American players who could've been chosen. Billy Horschel was one of the top finishers in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Keegan Bradley, who was on the Ryder Cup team in 2012 and 2014, was a good candidate. Xander Schauffele is one of the good up-and-coming players.
Tiger was a captain's pick, but that's difficult to dispute. He was playing well throughout the year and Furyk made the right call. But with Mickelson, that same level of consistency wasn't there. Mickelson has been OK, but it's not as if he was playing better than others who were left off the team. In fact, you could argue he was playing worse than guys like Bradley and Horschel.
(4) What Furyk could've done better. There were a few questionable decisions. Keeping Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods paired together was a mistake. After the defeat on Friday, he should've abandoned that pairing and went in a different direction, especially after how poorly Reed played. But Furyk went back to that well Saturday and they lost again. Reed was one of four Americans to win a singles match on Sunday, so that was a decent consolation prize for him.
Having Woods play twice on Saturday was a mistake. It's likely that Furyk went with Tiger there because of the deficit. But the 80-time PGA Tour winner was already 0-2 in team play by Saturday afternoon. Furyk should've given Reed a chance with a new partner, or worked in Finau or Fowler.
(5) Time to shift focus to 2020. The United States will look to get back on track on home soil. The next Ryder Cup will be held at Whistling Straits, which is a links-style course. That could make the Europeans a favorite to win again, but it's a course the American players are certainly familiar with. It will be interesting to see who the captain will be in two years.