Europe finishes off dominant week to win back Ryder Cup
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Europe waited two long years for that one moment when the Ryder Cup was back in its hands.
Exactly when it happened Sunday was unclear, making it all the better.
At roughly the same time, in two singles matches on two greens at Le Golf National separated by 150 yards of water, Francesco Molinari and Sergio Garcia each made par to secure at least a half-point, either one giving Europe the 14½ points it needed to regain the Ryder Cup from the Americans.
As the celebration was just getting started, Molinari capped off the first 5-0 week at the Ryder Cup for a European.
Three of those points came at the expense of Tiger Woods, who left France without contributing a point. Molinari won his singles match against Phil Mickelson, officially putting the winning point on the board for Europe and putting Mickelson in the record book for the most losses in Ryder Cup history.
Then, Garcia won his match to set the record for the most career points in Ryder Cup history.
It was like that all week.
Europe produced stars old and new with a team that was as strong as ever.
“We got it right this week,” European captain Thomas Bjorn said. “We never, ever looked toward their team about what they were about. We were about us as a team and what we do. … Everything that this Ryder Cup was is what I think the Ryder Cup should be about for a European team.”
Mostly, it’s about winning.
The final shot came from Alex Noren, who after conceding a short birdie putt to Bryson DeChambeau on the 18th hole, made a 40-foot birdie putt to win the match.
That made it 17½-10½, the biggest Ryder Cup rout in 12 years.
Two years after the Americans thought they had their Ryder Cup problems figured out, Europe reminded them Sunday which team practically has owned that shiny gold trophy for the last quarter-century.
Europe now has won nine of the last 12. The Americans remain winless away from home since 1993.
And there wasn’t much U.S. captain Jim Furyk could do about it.
“They played some great golf this week, and I take my cap off,” Furyk said. “Thomas was a better captain and their team outplayed us. And there’s nothing else more you can say. They deserved to win.”
Molinari was just as good on his own as he was with Tommy Fleetwood, and the best year of his golfing life somehow got better. Just over two months ago, he was posing with that silver claret jug at the British Open as Italy’s first major champion. This felt just as sweet because it was a trophy he shared with a team.
“This team has been incredible from the start,” Molinari said. “We were determined to do the job. Nothing was going to stop us. And you saw it on the course.”
It was the most lopsided victory since consecutive 18½-9½ victories by Europe more than a decade ago when the Americans looked utterly lost. They formed a Ryder Cup Task Force after the 2014 loss. The idea was to build continuity and momentum, and it seemed to work when the Americans won at Hazeltine in 2016.
Now, maybe it’s back to the drawing board.
“Let’s be honest — the European side played some exquisite golf,” Mickelson said.
The same couldn’t be said for Mickelson or Woods, two giants of their generation, both with losing records in the Ryder Cup.
Mickelson didn’t even play on Saturday and lost his matches on Friday and Sunday. He started the week by setting a record with his 12th appearance in the Ryder Cup, and it ended with 22 losses, a record by either side. At 48, he might not get another chance.
“I did not play well this year,” Mickelson said. “This could very well, realistically, by my last one.”
Woods was 0-4, the first time in eight Ryder Cups that he failed to contribute a single point. This was one week after he capped a personal comeback following four back surgeries by winning the Tour Championship, the 80th of his PGA Tour career and first in more than five years.
But he looked like he lacked energy on the course and certainly in his speech over the last two days.
“It’s disappointing because I went 0-4, and that’s four points to the European team,” he said. “And I’m one of the contributing factors to why we lost the cup, and it’s not a lot of fun. It’s frustrating because I thought we were all playing pretty well, and I just didn’t perform at the level that I had been playing, and just got behind early in the matches and never got back.”
But this was more about the Europeans as a team, and they were tougher than ever on a course they know well.
Trailing 10-6 going into the final day of singles, the Americans needed to put red points on the board early to build momentum. It never happened. Justin Thomas won the leadoff match over Rory McIlroy but not until the 18th hole.
Webb Simpson and Tony Finau, the lone bright spot among the wild-card picks for Furyk, won easily. Behind them, Woods was hanging tough against Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson started to pull ahead of Ian Poulter.
“There’s always a moment where it looks like a spark of light,” Furyk said. “When it was there for us, Europe played really well.”
It wasn’t there long.
Rahm won two straight holes with pars to seize control. Johnson hit into the water on the 13th during a four-hole slide that took him from 1 up to 2 down, a match Poulter wound up winning.
Thorbjorn Olesen, who had played only one match the previous two days, went 5 up at the turn over Jordan Spieth and won in 14 holes. Spieth is now 0-6 in singles matches in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
Garcia was in tears.
He played so poorly this year that he failed to qualify for the PGA Tour’s postseason. Bjorn picked him anyway, saying he was the heart and soul of the European team, and Garcia responded by going 3-1. His victory over Rickie Fowler gave him 25½ points in a Ryder Cup career that began in 1999.
“I think that a lot of people thought that the Ryder Cup was over before it was played,” Garcia said. “And I guess, unfortunately, they picked the wrong team.”