Molinari, Garcia make history
SAINT-QUENTIN-ENYVELINES, France, Sept 30, (AFP): Europe’s finest golfers, sparked by a record-setting victory for Italy’s Francesco Molinari, recaptured the Ryder Cup on Sunday, denying a dramatic United States fightback to complete an emotional 17.5-10.5 upset victory. Reigning British Open champion Molinari defeated five-time major winner Phil Mickelson 4 and 2 as Europe took an insurmountable edge over the favoured Americans in the biennial team showdown at Le Golf National.
“The attitude they had was unbelievable,” Europe captain Thomas Bjorn said. “There was a moment when I thought this was going a little bit wrong but when we got our momentum going it went very quickly.” It turned out to be the most lopsided European triumph since an 18.5-9.5 victory at Ireland’s K Club in 2006. The US team needed to match the greatest last-day comebacks in Ryder Cup history by taking eight singles points to keep the Cup, but there was no French magic like Europe’s 2012 ‘Miracle at Medinah’ or the Americans’ 1999 victory in the ‘Battle of Brookline’.
“Their captain did a better job than I did,” US captain Jim Furyk said. “Their players played better. We just have to tip our caps.” The Americans, who haven’t won in Europe since 1993, lead the all-time rivalry 26-14 with two drawn but the Europeans’ ninth victory in the past 12 attempts gave them an 11-8 with one drawn edge since expansion from a British- Irish squad after 1977.
Americans pulled within 10.5-9.5 before Europe’s first singles victory by Danish rookie Thorbjorn Olesen, who beat three-time major winner Jordan Spieth 5 and 4. Spain’s Jon Rahm followed by downing Tiger Woods 2 and 1, keeping the 14-time major champion winless in four matches this week and snuffing out any US momentum. Rahm, who led after all but one hole, pumped his fists and screamed with joy after his winning four-foot birdie putt left Europe two wins from victory. England’s Ian Poulter, Europe’s wildcard talisman, birdied the 18th hole to beat world number one Dustin Johnson 2-up and put Europe on the brink.
That set the stage for Molinari to clinch the win, making his 5-for-5 history after Mickelson found water at 16 and conceded, setting off a champagne- spraying celebration. Spain’s Sergio Garcia, last year’s Masters champion, also made history, beating Rickie Fowler 2 and 1 to reach 25.5 career Ryder Cup points, breaking Nick Faldo’s old mark of 25. He credited team spirit with helping the feat. Matches stood on a knife’s edge deep into the afternoon as tension built across the back nine.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy found the same bunker twice and water to lose the 18th hole and his match 1-up to US rookie Justin Thomas. Third-ranked Brooks Koepka, this year’s US Open and PGA Championship winner, halved with England’s Paul Casey in a match neither led by more than 1-up. Webb Simpson beat Justin Rose 3 and 2 and US rookie Tony Finau ripped Tommy Fleetwood 6 and 4, ending the Englishman’s bid to match Molinari’s 5-for-5 feat.