Europe upsets all odds in Ryder Cup thrashing
Having lost out in 2016, Europe were considered heavy underdogs heading into the Ryder Cup last week in Paris. What followed was a huge upset of the odds, in the most convincing of displays. Gregor Kerr looks back at the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National.
There was a moment, around 2pm on Sunday, where it felt like the pieces were finally starting to fall into place. Come 4pm however, those hopes sunk, just like Phil Mickelson’s water-bound shot on the 16th, who immediately surrendered the Ryder Cup back into European hands. It was unlikely way to decide the title, almost as unlikely as the eventual winning margin.
The Americans, apart from Friday’s morning session, never looked in control, or comfortable, during their time in Paris. Justin Thomas, their outstanding competitor, was the only USA player to have tested the course previously and it told. For all of the studious effort Furyk put into preparation, the were not ready for the biggest test of all. The narrow fairways and deep roughs punished any poor shots, as they should, in a manner unfamiliar to PGA courses. Bjorn undeniably set up the course to favour Europe
The mood coming from the European camp was of a completely different mind-set during the week’s party in Paris. From Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia’s wild celebrations on Saturday to the adopted Viking Clap from the grandstands, the hosts were loud, relentless and eager to plaster their mark on the 42nd Ryder Cup.
The inquests have already begun, and will continue to or the foreseeable future, on how Jim Furyk contrived to make the hotly tipped visitors self-combust consistently. With two of the three major holders in their camp, the world number one, the experienced youth of Spieth and Thomas, alongside the stature of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, you would be forgiven to expecting a closer battle at the very least.
USA brought big names, and a heap of hype. They had a star-studded cast ready to dominate this and future Ryder Cups. But Team Europe would never cave in that easily, and captain Thomas Bjorn’s decision to bring in Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Garcia as wildcards were justified, after being accused of “picking his mates”. Poulter, who already had a famous history of Ryder Cup dominance, has only added to that legacy. Garcia was perhaps the most surprising of all picks, and now has made history with the most points won in the tournament’s history, surpassing Sir Nick Faldo with 25 ½ points.
What the hosts did also have was an exceptional team spirit; everybody seemed to gel. Some more than others, as the ‘Moli-Wood’ dream partnership of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari blossomed throughout the weekend, pairing with each other in all doubles sessions. A week ago, the Englishman was a Ryder Cup rookie, and Molinari had never won a match. Now, the pair find themselves recorded in history forever, as unlikely a friendship as they may have been. The emphasis on teamwork was best described by Rory McIlroy ahead of Sunday’s singles, stating the they were “individual matches all going towards a common goal”. It was then fitting that every member of Team Europe gained a point, just the fourth time it has ever happened.
Those relationships that existed in the USA side were surprisingly broke up. Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth had an impressive five points from seven games in the four years previous, yet the two never played together once in the entire weekend. The former suggests that Spieth was keen to dodge the pairing, with that story still to develop further. Also surprising was that the partnership of Rickie Fowler and Thomas, built successfully at the Presidents Cup last year, was again not considered., For all of the weapons in Furyk’s armoury, he couldn’t get them to fire.
The selection that did come for the US were mind boggling. Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson, two completely different styles and characters. The former, very methodical and analytical in his approach plays nothing like the free-spirited and more adventurous Mickelson, yet they found themselves on the same side and looking uncomfortable. It is then not a surprise that the two were the only players in the whole tournament to lose every match.
The aftermath has been ugly for the Americans, fights between Koepka and Johnson compounded with an explosive interview from Patrick Reed. Despite the bright future ahead for this US side, will they even be capable of working together again after this weekend?
As for the Europeans, Poulter, Stenson and Rose will have few Ryder Cups ahead of them, but with the same spirit they possess through the years they should be able to fill that gap, starting with Whistling Straights in 2020.