First published in the Sept. 30 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
Collin Morikawa hoisted yet another prestigious trophy in the professional golf world on Sunday. The 24-year-old phenom, a La Cañada Flintridge native, was part of a historic U.S. team that defeated Europe, 19-9, to claim the Ryder Cup in a dominant performance at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
Morikawa secured the win when he birdied the 17th hole in singles play against Norwegian Viktor Hovland, the No. 14-ranked golfer in the world, for half of a point. He tied with Hovland and finished unbeaten in his first appearance in the Ryder Cup with a 3-0-1 record, including three victories in doubles competition alongside Dustin Johnson.
Though he missed the final putt for the individual victory, the La Cañada High School graduate was content with the team win, which he said “means so much.”
“To clinch this and bring the Cup back to home soil, it feels so good,” he said on NBC moments after his match. “[The win] was huge. I don’t think it’s just a win. I think this is a dominant win. We don’t know what the final score is going to be, but everyone showed up and I think it proves that all 12 of us, when we are called upon, it’s time and we show up and I’m glad to see that.”
The triumph was the most dominant in the biennial competition — which features the best golfers in the world — since continental Europe began playing in 1979. Going into the tournament that originally pitted American golfers against Great Britain’s best, Europe had won seven of the previous nine Ryder Cups.
“Tough week,” said European coach Padraig Harrington. “The U.S. team played very well. They were a very strong team coming in and they played up to their potential — even above it. They created momentum and kept it going.”
The Americans picked up their second consecutive win on U.S. soil — the first was in 2016 in Minnesota — and set a record for points scored in the modern 28-point format of the Ryder Cup. The previous high for point total in the competition was 18½, accomplished by the Europeans 2002 and 2004 and the U.S. team in 1981.
“This is the greatest team of all time right here,” U.S. coach Steve Stricker told the news media after the competition. “These guys are unbelievable. This is a new era right here. These guys are young. They want it; they’re motivated. They came here determined to win.”
With Morikawa and five other rookies, Stricker had the youngest American group in the history of the Ryder Cup. Eight of the 12 golfers were in their 20s and nine athletes ranked among the top 11 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Morikawa, the youngest of the group, and his teammates didn’t buckle under the pressure.
“We know paper means nothing; it really doesn’t,” said Morikawa, who is ranked No. 3 in the world. “Even though we knew we had a very strong team and a lot of guys in the top 10 in the world, it means nothing until you hit that first tee shot. The guys pulled through, and we didn’t let up.”
For the four-time Rio Hondo League MVP, the Ryder Cup was another feather in a cap full of them. Morikawa has won two majors (the PGA Championship and the Open Championship) and a WGC-Workday Championship, and represented the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympics during the summer.
“I really wish I could look back on it,” he said of a remarkable year. “There’s been so much good and some bad and a lot of learning, but overall, I’m very happy. I love what I do and I’m very thankful to be here. All 12 of the guys on my team, including myself, we just want to represent the U.S. as best we could, and I think we did a pretty good job.”