PARIS (Reuters) – Francesco Molinari fittingly took the glory as Europe regained the Ryder Cup from the United States in dominant style on Sunday, the Italian beating Phil Mickelson to post the point needed to reach the winning total.
Golf – 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National – Guyancourt, France – September 30, 2018 – Team Europe captain Thomas Bjorn and his team pose with the trophy after winning the Ryder cup REUTERS/Paul Childs
Mickelson conceded the 16th hole after firing his tee shot into the water with Molinari on the green to leave the Italian as the first European to win all five matches in a week — having not won any of his previous six.
Europe were effectively assured of victory when he teed off as the Italian, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia were all dormie and guaranteed at least half a point from their matches – with Europe needing just one more.
All three secured the wins and Swedish rookie Alex Noren completed the day’s action in style when he sunk a 40-foot putt to beat Bryson Dechambeau on the last and make the final European victory margin an emphatic 17.5-10.5.
“They’ve been amazing; all 12 of them have been unbelievable,” said emotional European captain Thomas Bjorn.
“They were so determined. They set out to do a job, so it was easy for me to guide them in that direction. They stood up to it.
“This is such special event, when you come in with the right attitude it’s such a great thing. I should wrap them up and take them to America for the next one.”
The home side, playing in France for the first time, had started the day 10-6 up, needing to secure four and a half of the 12 points available to win back the trophy and extend their stranglehold on home soil dating back to 1993.
Only twice before had a team come from four down going into the singles to win — the U.S. doing so at Brookline in 1999 and Europe in 2012 in the “Miracle of Medinah” – but another stunning comeback never really looked on the cards.
Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau gave Jim Furyk’s team a glimmer of hope with early wins but then the European points started pouring in.
Thorbjorn Olesen hammered Jordan Spieth and fellow rookie Jon Rahm beat Tiger Woods — leaving the weary-looking 14-times major champion with a stunning four defeats out of four and ensuring that every member of the European team contributed at least a point.
Ian Poulter, “Mr Ryder Cup”, then got to smash his fist against the European crest on his chest one more time as world number one Dustin Johnson conceded on the 18th green to leave Europe on the verge.
The three dormie games meant victory was secure but Ryder Cup tradition demands a man who delivers the winning point and nobody has delivered this week like British Open champion Molinari.
After seeing his ball splash into the lake Mickelson, who suffered two defeats in what will surely be his last Ryder Cup, sportingly removed his cap and offered his hand to spark amazing scenes of celebration on the tee and amid the biggest galleries in the event’s history.
“This means more than majors, more than anything,” said Molinari, who won all four pairs matches with Tommy Fleetwood in another European first.
“The team spirit has been the best I have been a part of, it’s just been an incredible week.”
Moments later Garcia beat Rickie Fowler 2&1 to become the competition’s all-time leading scorer, his three points this week taking his career tally to 25.5 to overhaul Nick Faldo and fully justify Bjorn’s decision to select him as a wildcard.
“I don’t usually cry, but I couldn’t help it, what a week,” said the Spaniard.
“It’s been a rough year, but we fought hard. I’m so thankful to Thomas Bjorn for believing in me.”
Stenson duly handed Bubba Watson his fourth defeat in four singles matches, by a thumping 5&4, and only American Patrick Reed halted the cascade of blue by beating Tyrrell Hatton.
Noren and Dechambeau found themselves alone on the course — apart from 70,000 fans — as the final match carried on to decide only the margin of victory.
But even that match produced a moment to remember when, with every member of both teams and all the support staff looking on at the 18th green, Noren sunk a monster birdie putt to halve the hole and win the match 1-up.
“You have to tip your cap, they outplayed us,” said Furyk, who has cut a sporting and dignified figure through what turned out to be a tough week.
“We got some momentum but the Europeans responded well as they have all week,” he said. “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.”
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond