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Star Team beats Team of Stars at Ryder Cup

The Europeans about to begin celebrations (Photo: Getty Images)
The Europeans have regained the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris but the score-line of 17½ - 10½ does little justice to a day of high drama and uncertainty as the Americans sought to overcome a four- point deficit heading into the 12 singles matches.

Beginning the final day trailing the Europeans by 10 to 6 and with that margin having only been overcome on two previous occasions to win the Ryder Cup, the Americans needed eight of the twelve available points in the singles match-ups and knew they needed a near miracle.

At one stage the margin had been reduced to just one and while the Europeans always had their noses in front the momentum being built by the Americans towards an unlikely victory was having its effect on all.

Europe had claimed only a half point out of the first four matches to finish, Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau all giving their side hope with victories over Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood respectively and Brooks Koepka adding another half point when sharing the honours of his match with Paul Casey.

The tension was palpable as the near impossible appeared as if it might just be possible but the tide turned again when Jon Rahm, Ian Poulter, Thorbjorn Olesen, Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari put the issue beyond doubt and the final few matches became of little relevance other than for pride and records.

The margin may not have been the greatest in the domination by Europe in the event since 1985 (that was recorded by Europe in 2004 at Oakland Hills when they won by nine points) but this will be one of the most satisfying given their early deficit on day one and the class of the team they beat.

David had therefore beaten Goliath in the most emphatic of manners and, putting a rubber stamp on an already remarkable 2018 season, Francesco Molinari became the first European to win five matches in a Ryder Cup encounter and the first from either side since American Larry Nelson achieved a similar feat in 1979.

Given Molinari had not recorded any more than a half point in his two previous Ryder Cup appearances provides further proof of just how far he has come this season. He was the only player from either side to win all five matches.

“I can't describe it,” said the Italian. “I couldn't even dream of a summer like this. To think before Wentworth, things were going okay, but not great, and then everything started clicking. Then after The Open, obviously physiologically there was a bit of a lull, but the main thing in mind was always this week, and I'm glad I showed up prepared and did the job.”

Compare his week to that of Tiger Woods who just seven days ago was the toast of the golfing world with his comeback victory at the Tour Championship. That performance it was suggested might be the boost the American side needed ahead of their quest to retain the Cup but clearly it was not to be.

Even 24 hours can be a long time in golf but for Woods right now a week might just seem like a lifetime after being taken down by a rampaging Jon Rahm to, perhaps mercifully, end a week where he earned not even a half point for his side.   

Understandably, given the great pride he has in his own performances, Woods was gutted by his efforts and was candid about the impact his efforts had on his side.

“Well, it's disappointing because I went 0-4, and that's four points to the European Team. 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 we came here, 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."

There were however many heroes in the European side, perhaps too many to highlight here but the performance of Thorbjorn Olesen against Jordan Spieth deserves special mention. Having lost his opening match on Thursday in his Ryder Cup debut Olesen sat out the remaining fourball and foursome matches.

Today however he played a key role in halting the USA’s side’s momentum in the middle of the afternoon and was never behind in his match against the former world number one and eventually his opponent 5&4.

“It was massive, getting down to the first tee, I was just -- I really wanted to win today," said the Dane. “Obviously not playing yesterday, the boys played great and I just wanted to get out there and get a point for Europe.

“It's been unbelievable. I played great on the front nine. Holed some really, really good putts and the crowd were mental. It's been so much fun.”

European captain Thomas Bjorn will take a lot of accolades for the manner in which he managed the team and extracted the best out of them but he was quick to point out the his role was made pretty straightforward by the way his 12 players responded to the call.

“Well, we're very proud today, this has been easy, they have been amazing, just the 12 of them has just been unbelievable. The way they bonded with each other, there were things they had done, and how they just get together and do a proper job; they were determined. They just set out to do a job themselves, and I mean, it was an easy job to guide them in that direction.

“They wanted this desperately, and they stood up and you know, so many things has happened this week, Francesco and Tommy and Sergio, what he's about to hopefully do, and there's so many great things and stories this week. It's all down to 12 players.”

USA captain Jim Furyk could do little than support his shattered team and praise the side that outplayed his and he was quick to do so.

“Yeah, I'm proud of these guys. They fought. They came out today, and there was a time this morning where it looked like we had a chance on those first five or six matches, put heat on Europe, and they fought.

“My hat's off to Europe. They played well again. When it got tough, they turned it around. And looks like they're going to win the session. Hat's off to Thomas. He was a great captain. His 12 team members played well.

I think I'll take a little time to digest. It's still a little fresh for us at the moment. We'll regroup, and I'll definitely kind of go through some things in my head and probably work with the PGA of America and our Ryder Cup Committee, and we'll move forward.

"I love these 12 guys. It was an honour to serve as their captain. I have five vice captains that were world-class players as well. At the end of the day, you've got to tip your cap. They outplayed us. Thomas was a better captain this week, and I've got nothing more to say."

Furyk might have been out-captained but his side was outplayed by a European side that historically starts the event as underdogs due mainly to the higher world ranking the Americans enjoy.

As has so often proved the case over the last 33 years, however, that on paper discrepancy counts for little in the intense cauldron of Ryder Cup golf.

Europe has now won 11 of the last twenty Ryder Cup battles and drawn one or, since their first win in 1985, 11 out of the last seventeen with one draw. That record alone suggests they should start as favourites whenever the two sides meet.

Once again it has been a case of a team of stars beaten by a star team. It is an old analogy but one that perfectly sums up the modern era of the Ryder Cup.

Tonight however the Europeans are both a star team and a team of stars.   

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