How ‘Grandpa’ Dustin Johnson led Team US’ young stars to Ryder Cup history

How ‘Grandpa’ Dustin Johnson led Team US’ young stars to Ryder Cup history

He may only be 37 years old, but Dustin Johnson was the elder statesman of the US Ryder Cup team.

But that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down one bit.

Johnson led from the front in an historic effort, winning all five of his matches as the US romped to a record-breaking 19-9 Ryder Cup victory at Whistling Straits.

His strong outing was a key part in the USA’s dominant win, which broke the record for the largest winning margin in Ryder Cup history.

In winning all five of his matches, the two-time major winner became just the fifth player to sport a 5-0-0 record at one Ryder Cup, joining Arnold Palmer, Gardner Dickinson, Larry Nelson and Francesco Molinari.

Affectionally coined “Grandpa” by his teammate Justin Thomas, Johnson was questioned whether — as the oldest member of the US team — he’d be able to keep up with his younger colleagues in the celebrations afterwards.

His response was emphatic. “Ab-….-solutely. Next question.”

While some might struggle with being the oldest in a team, Johnson took it in his stride all weekend, acting as the fulcrum to allow the six US rookies to strut their stuff.

And having such impressive teammates and such a good bond as a team allowed them to be all the more successful, according to Johnson.

“Obviously, this is the first team where I was the oldest,” Johnson said immediately after beating Europe’s Paul Casey in Sunday’s singles match.

“On the other teams, I felt like I was a younger guy on the team. 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.”

If you had told Johnson before the Ryder Cup that he would win all five of his matches, he says he would have called you “crazy.”

The 2020 Masters champion, with raucous US crowds cheering him on, remained his usual calm and collected self throughout the weekend.

Paired with reigning Open champion Collin Morikawa, he comfortably handled Casey and Viktor Hovland on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, he and Xander Schauffele beat Casey and Bernd Wiesberger.

Once again paired with Morikawa on Saturday morning, they beat Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, and on Saturday afternoon, they easily beat Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy before Johnson’s Singles victory against Casey on Sunday.

Even though US captain Steve Stricker prioritized youth over experience in an attempt to bring about success — a decision which has definitely been vindicated in hindsight — the young guys impressed Johnson.

“This week, yes, we had a lot of young guys, but they are young and they are rookies on the Ryder Cup, but it didn’t feel like they were just because they have all played well in such big moments and big tournaments that it didn’t feel like they were rookies,” he said.

“And they didn’t play like they were rookies. They stepped up to the plate and they all wanted it. And like Xander and all of us have all said all week, the one thing we all have in common is we all hate to lose. And so that’s how we came together, and we all played like it.”

As a result of Johnson’s stellar play and commitment, he was named as one of the two winners of the inaugural Nicklaus-Jacklin award.

Named after two of golf’s greats and two former Ryder Cup captains — Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin — the award seeks to commemorate “sportsmanship, teamwork and performance in the context of better decision-making.”

Nicklaus and Jacklin displayed those qualities in the iconic 1969 Ryder Cup, when Nicklaus conceded a two-foot putt to Jacklin for a halved match that resulted in the first tie in Ryder Cup history. It has since been coined “The Concession.”

Johnson was named alongside Sergio Garcia as the first recipients of the award. In his fifth Ryder Cup appearance, Johnson’s imperious form was a “dream.”

“For the first four matches, I had great partners in Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele,” he said. “We played great together and jelled really well. I am so proud of my teammates and my captains and loved the help from the fans. This award is something to be very proud of. All 12 of us showed great teamwork and came together as a team.”