The dramatic narrative of the 2021 Ryder Cup—the event that pitted the premier U.S. and European golfing talent against each other—exploring the modern history of the tournament that led to the showdown at Whistling Straits, and how 2021's contenders represent the PGA Tour at its most intriguing.
The task facing Steve Stricker at the 2021 Ryder Cup was enormous. It was his job, as the American captain, to stare down almost 40 years of Ryder Cup history, break a pattern of American home losses that had persisted almost as long, and reverse the tide of European dominance in golf's most infamous event. From the moment the first ball was struck at the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, Team USA stood with its back to the abyss, fighting a rearguard action against what could have been the worst and most expensive defeat in Ryder Cup history. It was the epitome of a must-win situation, but it was also something more — in the entire 93-year history of the event, no American side has ever confronted the kind of pressure they faced. Starting on the morning of September 24, those 12 players competed not just for a Cup, and not just for pride, but to save the reputation of the US team itself.
In the Ryder Cup, golf's most prestigious team event, America has long featured the better individual talent, yet repeatedly come up short in competition. Starting with the European renaissance led by Tony Jacklin in the 1980s, the US has been squarely on the back foot, careening from one idea to another without a unified strategy, while their rivals across the Atlantic have carefully orchestrated a template that produces victory after victory. It's been a desperate, losing fight for the US, in which they looked more like a dysfunctional family than anything resembling a cohesive team. Throw in the complications of COVID-19, which delayed the event from its original date in September 2020, and the stage was set for one of the strangest, most intriguing Ryder Cups ever. Tiger Woods was out after his horrific car crash, Patrick Reed ("Captain America," to his supporters) was hospitalized with double pneumonia weeks before the event, and America had to rely on its rising stars — including Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, who spent most of the year immersed in an escalating feud — to prove their mettle on the world's biggest stage. Meanwhile, the European team had the better Ryder Cup pedigree, and a few major stars of their own, including Jon Rahm, the world no. 1 and the first Spanish player ever to win the U.S. Open.
Following each turn in the drama in Wisconsin, The Cup They Couldn't Lose tells the story of how the sport reached this moment, how the US rallied to defeat the Europeans in record fashion, and what it all means for the drama and spectacle of golf.