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Article by Ron Green Jr. of Global Golf Post
After all the ifs, ands and putts across three days on the edge of Paris, the Ryder Cup officially was handed over to the European team when Phil Mickelson’s lost weekend concluded with a tee shot into the water at the par-3 16th hole.
Already 3 down to the unbeatable Francesco Molinari, Mickelson pulled off his cap an extended his hand, locking down the clinching point for the Europeans, ending a Sunday that tried to develop some drama but ultimately felt like an ear-splitting formality as the Americans remained winless on foreign soil since 1993.
Olé, Olé, Olé, indeed.
The final margin was 17 1/2 – 10 1/2 and that looked and felt about right. From Friday afternoon when the European team swept the foursome, this Ryder Cup belonged to the hosts, who found magic in the pairing of the moon-faced Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood with his flowing mane.
“It was getting tough there for a little bit, but generally, I have belief and faith in this team and that they were going to deliver. They delivered more than they should have,” European captain Thomas Bjørn said.
Ultimately, all the Americans could do was watch the European celebration erupt, almost literally spilling down the hill from the 16th tee toward them.
“Thomas (Bjørn) did a better job than I did. They played great. What else can you say?” U.S. captain Jim Furyk said.
From the course setup to their inspired pairings to their ability to the way they holed putts, the European side looked like they do this kind of thing weekly, not every two years.
“We got it right this week,” Bjørn said. “We worked as a team and we knew we were up against very strong opponents, but we went out on the golf course and believed in ourselves and what we stand for as a team. We never ever looked towards their team about what they were about. We were about us as a team and what we do.”
The Americans won the first session Friday morning then did not win another one, scraping out a split in the Saturday afternoon foursomes to stay within four points entering the singles.
“Let’s be honest. The European side played some exquisite golf. I mean, it was some phenomenal golf, and they flat-out beat us,” Mickelson said.
For a time Sunday afternoon – perhaps 30 minutes – it seemed the Americans could pull off a comeback to rival its 1999 victory at The Country Club. Justin Thomas, the best American player in the event, won the first match out, 1 up, against Rory McIlroy and the splash of American red grew larger on the scoreboard.
Then it began to disappear.
Tiger Woods lost a critical match to Jon Rahm, having pulled even through 12 only to bogey the next two to fall into a hole he couldn’t escape. Ian Poulter came from behind against Dustin Johnson. Jordan Spieth (still winless in six singles matches in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup play) got smoked by Thorbjørn Olesen.
Then Sergio García did what he does in the Ryder Cup, beating Rickie Fowler, and Molinari completed the best late summer of his golf life.
How solid was the European team?
Each of their 12 players won at least one match.
Three Americans – Woods, Mickelson, and Bryson DeChambeau – were shut out.
Bjørn’s four captain’s picks – Paul Casey, Poulter, Henrik Stenson, and García – combined to go 9-4-1.
Furyk’s four picks – Woods, Mickelson, DeChambeau and Tony Finau – went 2-10.
“I went 0-4, and that’s four points to the European team. And I’m one of the contributing factors to why we lost the cup, and it’s not a lot of fun,” said Woods, who has won just one Ryder Cup in eight attempts and has a 13-21-3 career record.
It was almost as if the U.S. team had been blindsided, their early momentum destroyed. It was the first time in Ryder Cup history the Americans had been shut out in a foursomes session and it energized the European team and its immense gallery of fans.
What began on Friday afternoon carried over into the morning chill Saturday when the Europeans built their advantage, winning three of four matches to create a four-point cushion. At one point, the Europeans won eight consecutive matches and the Americans became desperate for points.
Spieth and Thomas helped the U.S. team find its footing Saturday afternoon but splitting the foursomes session still left the Americans four points behind entering the final day.
Before going to sleep on the big lead, Bjørn delivered a history lesson to his team.
“You keep reminding yourself that we had a big lead at Valderrama; we had a big lead at Brookline, and at Valderrama, we won, but only just. At Brookline, we lost. At Medinah we were a long way behind and turned it around,” Bjørn said.
“History will show me and everybody on that team that this is not over. That’s what it’s all about.”
During the first two days, Bjørn seemed to find magic where Furyk found frustration. Furyk’s four captain’s picks won one point in the first two days whereas Bjørn’s won six.
Patrick Reed didn’t work as Woods’ partner. Neither did DeChambeau, though each of the two pairings’ matches were against the Fleetwood-Molinari machine.
“We’ve been outplayed. I don’t think there’s a guy in my team room who would argue with me,” Furyk said Saturday night.
The setting was spectacular. Le Golf National became an international star, going on the world stage and providing a dynamic match-play stage. It negated the American power advantage and demanded accuracy.
The noise was thunderous at times. The sense of momentum was undeniable. The nervous energy was palpable.
“We always knew it had the potential, Paris, this golf course, wanted to win the cup back,” said Stenson, who went 3-0 for Europe. “I was one of the guys who was there to lose it two years ago, so that little bit of extra revenge makes it feel even sweeter. So amazing,”
Republished with permission from Global Golf Post