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Golf-U.S. wins Ryder Cup and opens door to new era

KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) -The United States, led by a new generation of golfers, reclaimed the Ryder Cup on Sunday, thrashing holders Europe 19-9 to herald what could be an era of domination by the Americans at the biennial competition.

With half the 12-man U.S. team comprised of rookies there were concerns as to whether the newcomers would be able to survive in the gladiatorial arena that is the Ryder Cup against a European squad packed with cut-throat veterans.

But youthful energy trumped experience as the European old guard failed to deliver against the American young guns.

“This is a new era for USA golf,” declared U.S. captain Steve Stricker. “They are young. They come with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of game.

“They are just so good.”

While Europe had four players in their 40s the United States had none, with all but three members in their 20s.

And the Americans were not just young but talented, the debutantes making a major contribution on the scoreboard going 14-4-3.

Fittingly it was the youngest member of the squad, 24-year-old Collin Morikawa securing the winning point.

Having romped to a commanding 11-5 advantage after the foursome and fourball sessions, the Americans entered Sunday’s singles needing just 3-1/2 points to reach the target required to hoist the little gold trophy.

Morikawa ended Europe’s faint hopes of a comeback when he birdied the 17th to go one up in his match with Viktor Hovland, guaranteeing the United States a deciding half-point.

The two-time major winner would make it official a few minutes later with a par on 18 to end the match in a tie, sending a thundering chant of “USA, USA” rumbling across Whistling Straits.

“To clinch this and bring it back on home soil feels so good,” said Morikawa. “The guys pulled through; we didn’t let up.”

The 19-9 rout was the largest margin of victory ever in the current 28-point Ryder Cup format, which began in 1979.

It was just the second time in six competitions and third in 10 that the United States had claimed golf’s most coveted team title.

Never before in 42 previous Ryder Cups had a team come back from more than a four-point deficit on the final day and Padraig Harrington’s men, while defiant, never threatened to make history.

RAUCOUS CROWD

Whistling Straits provided a stunning backdrop and perfect party spot for 40,000 mostly flag-waving American fans, who flooded into the links-style Pete Dye jewel on the Lake Michigan shoreline on Sunday, ready to celebrate.

Morikawa sent the party into overdrive but it would be some time before all his team mates could join in. Seven matches were still out on the course to be completed with the margin of victory the only thing left to be decided.

Given their commanding lead, there were worries about a lack of intensity by the U.S. players, but a raucous crowd on the first tee assured their batteries were fully charged heading out.

Needing something magical, Harrington turned to a player who had so far provided little of it at Whistling Straits, tasking a winless Rory McIlroy with sparking a European fight back.

McIlroy, who laboured so badly in the foursomes and fourballs that Harrington stood down the Northern Irishman for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, was first out against Olympic champion Xander Schauffele and found a spark, going 2up after four holes and never trailing in a 3&2 win.

But behind McIlroy, an American red wave was forming on the scoreboard as Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry, who had accounted for most of the European points in the foursomes and fourballs, failed to fire.

Patrick Cantlay defeated Lowry 4&2 and Scottie Scheffler slayed Europe’s best Rahm 4&3.

Scheffler, another rookie and captain’s pick, was handed the daunting task of taking on the world number one and did not wilt from the challenge, going 4up on the Spaniard after four holes and never letting him back into the match.

Big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau, the crowd favourite with his monster drives, pounded Garcia into submission 3&2 to leave the United States a half-point from mission accomplished.

Who would get that crucial point was a toss-up between several matches, but Morikawa got the honour when he nearly aced the 17th, leaving a short tap-in that secured nothing short of a draw.

“They got it right, whatever their plan was, they got it right this week,” said Harrington. “They would have been tough to beat at the best of times, let alone when they are at top form.

“It’s a great win for them.”

PARIS (Reuters) -Lionel Messi said on Wednesday he wanted to power Paris St Germain to their first Champions League trophy, putting the tearful farewell he bade to Barcelona behind him after signing a two-year contract with the deep-pocketed French soccer powerhouse.

Messi joined the star-studded PSG as a free agent after Barcelona, where he begun and always imagined he would play out his career, acknowledged last week they could no longer afford him.

Thousands of PSG fans thronged the side’s Parc des Princes stadium, daring to believe their team would now deliver the Champions League having hoovered up domestic titles since free-spending owners Qatar Sports Investment European arrived in 2011 but always fallen short of European soccer’s top prize.

Messi said he was hungry to add more Champions League titles to the four he won with Barcelona.

“That’s why I am here (to win trophies). It’s an ambitious club,” Messi told a news conference.

After years of failing to get beyond the quarter-finals, PSG finally reached the final in 2020, but lost to Bayern Munich, while last season they went out in the semi-finals.

“My dream is to win another Champions League, and I think this is the ideal place to be to do that,” added Messi, who in a nod to his first squad number in senior football at Barcelona will wear the No. 30 jersey at PSG.

The Argentine conceded he did not know when he would make his debut, having not played since winning the Copa America with his country last month.

“I’m coming back from holiday. I need a bit of a pre-season to get myself going,” he said.

FAIR PLAY RULES

Messi will join former Barca team mate Neymar in Paris.

The Brazilian left Catalonia for the French capital in a world record 222 million euro ($259.94 million) deal in 2017, but never hid his desire to link up with his close friend once again on the pitch.

They will now line up with French Word Cup-winner Kylian Mbappe in a potent front-three attack.

“To play with the likes of Neymar and Mbappe is insane,” Messi continued.

France’s top soccer league has always been perceived as the poorer cousin to top flight leagues in neighbouring England, Germany, Spain and Italy.

PSG’s Qatari money is enabling PSG to compete at their level, though much of the rest of the league is way adrift in terms of resources. In unusual comments praising a club’s transfer dealings, Ligue 1 President Vincent Labrune celebrated Messi’s signing as a big win for French soccer.

“The arrival of Messi will bolster the attractiveness and visibility of our championship across continents,” Labrune said in a statement. He thanked the club’s owners for creating what he called one of sport’s biggest franchises globally.

However, some commentators have asked how PSG could afford to sign Messi within the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations of European soccer’s governing body, UEFA.

UEFA’s FFP rules are designed to prevent clubs spending more than they earn. Spain’s La Liga’s own FFP rules are more stringent than UEFA’s, with each club given a salary cap they must adhere to.

“We’re always attentive to Financial Fair Play. It’s the first thing we check with the commercial, financial and legal people before signing someone,” PSG chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi told the same news conference.

“MAGICIAN”

Messi held up his new shirt to thousands of fans outside the stadium, waving shyly as they beat drums, released smoke flares and chanted his name.

Local fan Nelson Dross, 17, told Reuters: “Why do I love him? Because he makes us dream. He’s a magician, a genius.”

Messi wept on Sunday as he told Barcelona fans he was leaving his childhood club.

“I’ll always be thankful to Barca and their fans. I went there as a boy, and we had some good and bad times,” he said on Wednesday.

Asked how he would feel if the time came to square up against his old club, he replied: “It would be nice on the one hand to face them in the Champions League, especially with fans, but on the other strange to go back to my home in another team’s shirt – but that’s football.”

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