Magnificent Molinari drives Europe to Ryder Cup victory
ROME – Francesco Molinari broke records as he spearheaded Europe’s triumph at the 42nd edition of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris.
The Italian became the first European to win five points out of a possible five in the Ryder Cup, forming a formidable partnership with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood. The pair convincingly won all four of their fourball and foursomes matches, never needing to play the 18th hole, such was their margin of victory.
After struggling on Friday morning, Europe won eight matches in a row to recover from 0-3, ending Saturday with a lead of 10-6 going into Sunday’s singles. Repetitions of Medinah in 2012, where Europe recovered from the same deficit to take a miraculous victory, never materialised for the Americans, despite taking two-and-a-half points from the first three matches, as world number two Justin Thomas held on to a narrow victory over Rory McIlory in the first tie out on the course.
Fleetwood could not continue his fine doubles form into Sunday, running out of gas as he was soundly beaten six-and-four by fellow rookie Tony Finau. Other than Finau’s dash of red, however, the middle of the scoreboard was covered in blue, as the likes of Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia all recorded crucial victories. Poulter, in particular, proved his worth as one of captain Thomas Bjorn’s wildcard picks by seeing off world number one Dustin Johnson, birdieing the 18th for good measure.
A series of Europeans were lining up to try and win the crucial, Ryder Cup-winning point for their side, as the blues closed in on the title. Henrik Stenson had a putt on the 13th green for victory against an out-of-sorts Bubba Watson, but it fell just short. Instead, somewhat poetically, it fell to the driving force of Europe’s campaign to deal the final blow to the Americans. Molinari stood on the 16th tee three up against Phil Mickelson, knowing that a half on any of the remaining holes would be enough. Having hit a characteristically accurate tee-shot into the heart of the green, the Italian didn’t even need to finish the hole, as Mickelson sent his shot straight into the water, duly conceding. The celebrations commenced, as Europe had officially retained the Ryder Cup.
More golf to play though, and blue kept appearing on the final leaderboard until only rookies Alex Noren and Bryson Dechambeau were out on course. Noren led by one going up the 18th, but a birdie from his opponent left him with a 30-footer to win the match. Given Europe’s incredible weekend of golf, it is no surprise that he holed it, and was duly mobbed by members of his team, Molinari included. It rounded off a spectacular tournament for Europe which will stick long in the memory of those involved. The skipper heralded a “unique European spirit”, addressing his team’s success.
For all the stats that seemed to favour the Americans – nine major winners, 11 of the world’s top 20, a rejuvenated Tiger Woods (wasn’t that far off the mark!) – the Europeans proved that, in a competition as intense and competitive as the Ryder Cup, team spirit and camaraderie are far more important ingredients in a winning formula.