Europe Win the Ryder Cup in Sensational Fashion

By: | Mon 01 Oct 2018 | Comments


EUROPE regained the Ryder Cup in spectacular fashion, thrashing the USA 17½-10½ at Le Golf National on the outskirts of Paris. Thomas Bjorn’s side led 10-6 after the opening two days and although the American’s won the first three singles matches, the outcome was never really in doubt. The winning point was secured by Open champion Francesco Molinari when his opponent, Phil Mickelson, dumped his tee shot in the water at the par three 16th hole and conceded his match.

American captain Jim Furyk may have some soul-searching to do in the days that lie ahead. His team were 3-1 ahead after the morning foursomes on Friday when he took the extraordinary decision to play Bubba Watson and Mickelson in that day’s foursomes, having left them on the sidelines during the four-balls If ever there was a golf course unsuited to the play of Watson and Mickelson it is Le Golf National, where accuracy is vital.

Unsurprisingly, the USA lost all four of Friday’s foursomes to trail 5-3, and they were never able to find any momentum again after that. Indeed, Mickelson did not play again until the singles. Tiger Woods also finished without a point to his name. For Europe it was a very different story. Everywhere you looked there were heroes.

Bjorn said: “These guys were just incredible. Captaining them was really easy. They are an amazing bunch of golfers and individuals.”

Victory for Europe was all the sweeter after the bitter disappointment of losing at Hazeltine two years ago.

Molinari, who won a maximum five points, was immediately drenched in beer by celebrating fans after beating Mickelson, said it "means more than winning majors".

Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who was a controversial wild-card selection, justified his place in the team by securing a victory of his own to surpass Sir Nick Faldo as the Ryder Cup's leading points scorer with 25½, then sobbed. "I don't usually cry, but I couldn't help it, what a week," he said. "It's been a rough year, but we fought hard. I'm so thankful to Thomas Bjorn for believing in me."

Nobody who witnessed any part of this Ryder Cup will ever forget it. More than 70,000 people attended the final day, with some 7,000 of them packed into the grandstand overlooking the first tee. And the noise they made was deafening.

At the end, Bjorn embraced each one of his players. "Some people say golf is boring - well, this is certainly not boring," said Bjorn. "I've experienced a lot of Ryder Cups but this is the top one.” Furyk admitted they had been outclassed. He said: "You have to tip your cap to them, they outplayed us."

Jon Rahm, Ian Poulter, Thorbjorn Olesen, Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren joined Molinari and Garcia in winning singles matches after the Americans, trailing 10-6, had threatened a comeback by winning 3½ of the first five points on the final day.

Poulter - nicknamed 'The Postman' because he 'always delivers a point' - found a pillar-box fancy-dress outfit to the delight of the partisan crowd, then led the charge on to the 18th green when Noren holed a 35-foot putt to win the final match.

This was meant to be the strongest team that the Americans had ever fielded, but they have not won on European soil since 1993 now, despite boasting a side that had won 31 majors between them. 11 of their players are in the world’s top 17, but it all counted for nothing when the chips were down.

Le Golf National is a different course to those the Americans are used to playing on - the tight fairways and deep, penal rough, a world away from the vast majority of PGA Tour courses.

Only three of the American team had played a competitive round at the home of the French Open before this week, and it showed as the Europeans, with more than 200 rounds between them, looked at home.

Furyk put his best players out first on Sunday and the gamble briefly looked like it might pay off with three three wins and a halved match out of the first five.

"We got some momentum but the Europeans responded well as they have all week," said Furyk. "Europe did a good job on a golf course they know pretty well but they did a great job playing it. They hit key shots and knocked in the clutch putts. But it's been a wonderful week."

Both the opening matches went down to the 18th, with Justin Thomas defeating McIlroy after an epic battle to put the American's first point on the board before Brooks Koepka rolled in a three-footer to share his match with Paul Casey - the only one of the 28 matches to end all square. McIlroy was two up after four holes but Thomas hit back with birdies on the eighth and 10th. They were still level on the 18th but after Thomas hit a huge drive, McIlroy pushed his tee shot into a bunker. His ball plugged and he was unable to get it out with his first attempt. His third shot finished in the water to effectively end the contest, with Thomas hitting his second to eight feet.

The point meant the American, who was joint eighth at the French Open earlier in the summer, finished as his team's top points scorer with four, from five matches.

World number two Rose failed to recover from losing the second and third holes to Webb Simpson and was three down after eight. The Englishman birdied the par-three 16th but the American holed his second shot to close out a 3&2 win.

Fleetwood, who won four matches in partnership with Molinari on Friday and Saturday, also harboured hopes of becoming the first European to win all five matches at a single Ryder Cup but they were crushed by Tony Finau. None of the first 11 holes were halved but the American won eight of them to the Englishman's three to go five ahead and he eventually won 6&4.

But then the tide turned. Poulter, so often the European to spark a momentum change, holed a birdie putt on the 14th to edge ahead of world number one Dustin Johnson in their see-saw contest and the roar reverberated around the course.

Moments later, those around the 14th green were roaring again when Olesen completed an unlikely 5&4 victory over Jordan Spieth to put Europe 11½-9½ ahead. Olesen had not played since losing in the fourballs on Friday morning and his victory was built on four birdies on the front nine as he went five clear, while Spieth, who has been one of the US team's star players with three points, never recovered from three successive bogeys.

Poulter, unbeaten in five previous singles matches, went two up on Johnson after the American dumped his second to the par-four 15th into the water.

Up on the 16th, Rahm missed a short putt to allow Tiger Woods to get back within a hole but the Spaniard hit his approach to the 17th to four feet and holed the putt. He punched the air in delight before consoling Woods,  who had waited patiently to congratulate his conqueror.

The defeat left Woods, who won his first tournament in five years at the Tour Championship last week, with no points from his four matches. Bryson DeChambeau and Mickelson also ended with zero points, while all the Europeans contributed.

Johnson won the 16th to stay in touch with Poulter but the thousands gathered round the 17th green were expecting to celebrate another European point minutes later. Poulter missed  a six-footer to win the match. However, he strode to the final tee, smashed his drive down the middle and flicked a mid-iron to six feet, a putt conceded by Johnson, to put Europe 13½-9½ ahead and just one point from regaining the trophy.

Any one of Molinari, Garcia, or Stenson could have secured the winning point - and it was the Italian who did so. The winning moment came when Mickelson, three down with three to play, hit his tee shot on the par-three 16th into the water and conceded the hole and match. The Ryder Cup was back in the hands of Europe.



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