Europe recorded the biggest Ryder Cup victory since their 2006 triumph in Ireland with a 17.5-10.5 defeat of the United States at Le Golf National.
A look at where the 42nd edition of the biennial team golf showdown was won and lost:
Thomas Bjorn’s decision to select Ryder Cup stalwart Sergio Garcia despite his dismal form this season proved an inspired one as the Spaniard claimed three wins from four matches to eclipse Nick Faldo and become the leading points scorer in Ryder Cup history with 25.5.
Ian Poulter, who missed the 2016 edition at Hazeltine, contributed two points including an impressive 2-up win over world number one Dustin Johnson on the final day. Henrik Stenson showed any concerns about a lingering elbow problem were misplaced as he won all three of his matches, throttling Bubba Watson 5 and 4 in the singles.
Paul Casey, who last played at the 2008 Ryder Cup, also shone on his return — halving with Brooks Koepka to prevent the US from reeling off four straight wins to start on Sunday.
“It’s by no means easy to be picked,” said Bjorn. “There’s pressure on you if you’re going to be picked, and they stood up, all of them this week, and showed what they are worth.”
In contrast, Jim Furyk’s three wildcards combined for just two points — both of those picked up by rookie Tony Finau. Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau found themselves 7-down to Garcia and Alex Noren in the foursomes, and it didn’t get much better for either of them from there.
Woods goes pointless
How quickly fortunes can change within the space of a week. Last Sunday, Tiger Woods was celebrating a first win in over five years at the Tour Championship in Atlanta following a long road back from his injury nightmares.
Fast-forward seven days and the 14-time Major champion was fronting up to a seventh Ryder Cup defeat in eight appearances after losing all four of his matches at Le Golf National.
In fairness, Woods received little support from partner Patrick Reed in the fourballs, while he and DeChambeau were blown away 5 and 4 in his lone foursomes match. Woods’ showdown with Jon Rahm on Sunday was key as he charged back from 2-down to level, producing a stunning eagle on the ninth, only to fall 2 and 1 as the Americans’ initial momentum promptly stalled.
Course experience pays off
The forgiving layout at Hazeltine two years ago played into the US team’s hands, with greater margin for error off the tee a boon to their power-packed line-up.
That was not the case at Le Golf National, where the thick rough and numerous water hazards punished a lack of accuracy. All 12 Europeans had prior competition experience of the Albatros course, with Noren and Tommy Fleetwood the last two winners at the French Open.
Tyrrell Hatton arrived as the sole member of Bjorn’s team yet to record a top-10 finish at the venue, while Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson, the only Americans to have previously competed here, had combined for just eight competitive rounds — compared to 233 for the opposition.
‘Moliwood’ exemplify teamwork
Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, good friends off the course, paired up to devastating effect on it and became the first-ever European pair to go 4-0 in team events. They stopped the rot after the US swept the opening three fourballs on Friday, defeating Woods and Reed twice to spark a record-equalling run eight of consecutive match wins for Europe.
Woods was dealt a trio of losses by them to drop his dreadful record in pairs event to 9-19 with one half, the lack of chemistry with the former world number one and his team-mates starkly opposed to cohesion between Fleetwood and Molinari.
Their strong bond was further evidenced when Fleetwood was one of the first to congratulate the Italian on becoming just the fourth player —- after Arnold Palmer, Gardner Dickinson (both 1969) and Larry Nelson (1979) — to claim five wins from five matches.
With Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, boyhood pals who were the only American pairing to secure more than a point, the US had their own version of ‘Moliwood’, but it was in too short supply. — AFP