For all the talk of the youth movement that powered USA to a record-breaking victory over Europe at the Ryder Cup – and its first consecutive wins on home soil since 1979 and 1983 – it was the team’s elder statesman who made the biggest individual impact.
Dustin Johnson, the world No 2 and the oldest member of a team whose average age is barely 29, became the fifth player to win all five matches in a Ryder Cup – an elite class made up of Arnold Palmer in 1967, Gardner Dickinson in 1967, Larry Nelson in 1979 and Francesco Molinari three years ago.
The 37-year-old South Carolinian is the first player to complete the five-for-five sweep as the oldest member of his team. The only ones to win four were Julius Boros (1965), Dickinson (1971) and Lee Trevino (1981).
“This is the first team where I was the oldest,” Johnson said. “On the other teams I felt like I was a younger guy. A little different dynamic.
“The guys all got along great. We all have one thing in common, we do not like to lose. We had a great week and it showed.”
As Jon Rahm strapped Europe to his back on the first two days, Johnson was winning his first four outings while paired three times with Collin Morikawa and once with Xander Schauffele, helping the USA race out to a record two-day lead.
Then came Sunday’s singles matches, where the roars that came all over the grounds from the earliest stages made it clear there would be no repeat of the collapse at Medinah. Among the loudest of them all were for Johnson, who elicited chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P” from the rowdy masses.
“Starting the week, if you had told me I was going to go 5-0-0, I probably would have said you were crazy. I didn’t think I was going to play five matches,” said Johnson, who racked up eight birdies in a one-hole win over Paul Casey.
The resounding triumph offered measures of personal satisfaction for Johnson, whose record in two previous Ryder Cup appearances was an ordinary 7-9-0.
Three years ago in the Paris suburbs, Johnson came in as the world No 1 and won one of five matches as the Americans were taken behind the woodshed at Le Golf National.
‘It’s painful’: Europe left reeling after dominant US storm Ryder Cup – video
Sunday’s runaway triumph took place where Johnson held a one-shot lead after 71 holes at the 2010 US PGA Championship. After appearing to bogey the 72nd and fall into a three-hole play-off with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer, he was given a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in one of the countless bunkers. Nearly six years would pass from that avoidable blunder until he won his first of two major titles, at the 2016 US Open.
Now he is the bandleader of a swashbuckling team that has provided a statement of intent for years to come. “We had a lot of young guys but it didn’t feel like they were because they have all played well in such big moments and big tournaments,” he said. “They didn’t play like they were rookies.
“Like Xander and all of us have all said all week, the one thing we all have in common is we hate to lose. That’s how we came together and we all played like it.”