Ryder Cup: Europe thwart American comeback as Francesco Molinari and Sergio Garcia make history

Frank Dalleres
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2018 Ryder Cup - Singles Matches
Molinari earned the decisive point to reclaim the Ryder Cup for Europe (Source: Getty)

The talk had been of the United States needing their own Miracle of Medinah to retain the Ryder Cup. In the end it was more a case of Frazzled in France, Vanquished in Versailles, Pulverised in Paris.

For a spell on Sunday the holders threatened to mount a comeback to rival Europe’s heroics of 2012, a flurry of early wins in the singles session slashing the hosts’ lead to just one point and setting the giddy crowd at Le Golf National on edge.

But Thomas Bjorn’s team stuck out their chests and responded, winning seven of the remaining eight matches to record their second biggest margin of victory, 17½-10½, and reassert their superiority in a competition they have come to dominate.

Read more: Why the Ryder Cup looks set to become an even bigger deal

Fittingly, Francesco Molinari secured the winning point with a 4&2 defeat of a sorry Phil Mickelson, who conceded after plunging his tee shot at 16 into the water.

The Italian was sensational throughout the competition, becoming the first European player – and only the second man ever – to win a maximum five points across fourballs, foursome and singles.

It capped a glorious year for the modest Molinari, who broke his Major duck at The Open and will hope to be part of the team for the next home Ryder Cup, in his native Italy.

History for Garcia

It was a landmark day, too, for Sergio Garcia, who overtook Nick Faldo as Europe’s highest points scorer.

His 2&1 win over Rickie Fowler, part of a deluge of blue on the bottom half of the scoreboard, took his tally to 25½ points and further vindicated his inclusion by Bjorn as a captain’s pick.

Garcia won three points from four matches – a total bettered only by Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood. Not bad for a player regarded as a risky-bordering-on-indulgent wild card selection.

Thomas Bjorn's men had been expected to lose to a star-studded USA team (Source: Getty)

It would be easy to forget just how unfancied this European team was in the weeks leading up to the 42nd Ryder Cup.

The Americans – boasting world No1 Dustin Johnson, a revitalised Tiger Woods and multiple Major winners Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson – were considered perhaps the best USA line-up of all time and rated odds-on favourites, despite not having won on this side of the Atlantic since 1993.

An emotional Garcia put it best: “A lot of people thought the Ryder Cup was over before it was played. I guess unfortunately they picked the wrong team.”

US stars fail to shine

Both Woods and Mickelson were literally pointless, the former’s miserable week completed with a 2&1 reverse to Jon Rahm that helped to turn the tide back in Europe’s favour.

Tiger has not won a fourball or foursomes match since 2010, while Mickelson claimed the unwanted distinction of reaching 22 Ryder Cup defeats – a figure unmatched in the contest’s rich history.

It wasn’t a week to whet the appetite for the pair’s much-hyped, $9m match in Las Vegas next month.

2018 Ryder Cup - Singles Matches
Garcia became Europe's all-team leading points scorer in the Ryder Cup (Source: Getty)

If USA captain Jim Furyk’s picks backfired, then every one of Bjorn’s justified their place in the winning team.

Victories for Rahm and Thorbjorn Olesen on Sunday ensured that all 12 European players registered a win – the hosts’ sixth in succession on home soil.

“They wanted this desperately and stood up,” said Bjorn. “It is all down to the 12 players and them only.”

Poulter donned fancy dress to celebrate Europe's win in a nod to his "postman" nickname (Source: Getty)

Europe’s success was further evidence of the intangible but intoxicating power of team spirit.

As is so often the case, they amounted to something greater than the sum of their parts, the underdog tag stirring a belligerence that served them so well.

For the USA, on the other hand, it was a chastening reminder that world ranking and career prize money counts for little in the crucible of the Ryder Cup.

American comeback in Paris

Furyk’s side did threaten to swing the match back their way in the early skirmishes, which cut Europe’s four-point overnight lead to just one.

Justin Thomas won the last hole to edge a nervy opener with Rory McIlroy, Webb Simpson beat Justin Rose 3&2 and Tony Finau swept aside Fleetwood 6&4.

Europe’s only respite in that spell came when Paul Casey, making his first appearance in the competition for 10 years, rallied to halve his match with Koepka.

2018 Ryder Cup - Singles Matches
Rahm's defeat of Woods ensured every European player won a match (Source: Getty)

The weight of Europe’s advantage from Friday and Saturday, during which they took command by winning eight straight matches, kept them in front and they soon extended it again.

Olesen wrapped up an emphatic 5&4 victory over Spieth to earn his team’s first win of Sunday, followed swiftly by Rahm, who celebrated by dropping his putter and roaring to the crowd.

Ian Poulter, who later donned a pillar-box costume in a nod to his “postman” nickname, won four of the last six holes to beat Johnson before Molinari completed a day to remember for Europe.

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