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 on the 16th to post the point needed to reach the magic tally of 14.5. Mickelson conceded the 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 already 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 games – with Europe at that stage needing one. “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 that dates 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 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 like Molinari this week.
After seeing his ball splash into the lake Mickelson, suffering two defeats in what will surely be his last appearance, 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 and overhauling Nick Faldo and fully justifying Bjorn’s decision to select him as a wild card.
“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. “It’s unreal. The crowds were amazing — they always are but it was just unbelievable how supportive. I’ve never had so many big cheers like I’ve had this week. It was amazing, and I’m just really happy that they get to celebrate now.”
Stenson duly handed Bubba Watson his fourth defeat in four singles matches, by a thumping 5&4, with only Patrick Reed halting the cascade of blue by beating Tyrrell Hatton.
Alex Noren and Bryson Dechambeau then found themselves alone on the course — but for 70,000 fans — as the final match carried on to decide only the margin of victory.
“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.
“Europe did a good job on a golf course they know pretty well. It’s a tight and wonderful golf course and their captain did a better job than me.”