Europe overpower USA to reclaim Ryder Cup in sensational scenes at Le Golf National
Europe held their nerve in Sunday's singles to reclaim the Ryder Cup after a terrific team performance throughout the weekend at Le Golf National.
America went into the weekend as clear favourites, but Europe gathered momentum with a clean-sweep in Friday afternoon's foursomes, and continued their strong showing throughout Saturday.
And Sunday's singles saw Europe overcome an early scare to ultimately run out convincing seven-point winners.
Things started to look tight for Europe on Sunday when USA made a strong start at the top of the leaderboard. Justin Thomas beat Rory McIlroy in the opening match, with Brooks Koepka and Paul Casey halving the second. But big wins for Webb Simpson over Justin Rose and Tony Finau over Tommy Fleetwood meant that nerves began to set in amongst the European contingent.
However, there's something special about this Europe team, and the swing of momentum hit the contest fast when it eventually happened.
First Thorbjorn Olesen completed a rout of Jordan Spieth, 5&4, and then the effervescent Ian Poulter completed an 18th-hole win over Dustin Johnson.
Jon Rahm put Europe on the brink of victory with a 2&1 win over Tiger Woods.
And the glorious decisive victory was left for Francesco Molinari, who completed his 4&2 win over Phil Mickelson when the American found the drink on the 16th.
As the celebrations started there was still golf to be played, with Patrick Reed completing a 3&2 win over Tyrrell Hatton and Henrik Stenson battering Bubba Watson 5&4.
The final match between Alex Noren and Bryson Dechambeau dragged all the way to the last hole as they celebrations carried on around them, but Noren sealed it in style with a long-range putt to complete a remarkable winning-margin for the European underdogs.
Speaking after victory was sealed, European captain Thoms Bjorn said:
" 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."
Europe led 10-6 heading into the final day, but as the Saturday afternoon session unravelled at Le Golf National, it looked a lost cause for the Americans.
Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari made history as they became the first European pairing to win four successive matches in the Ryder Cup.
They beat Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau 5&4 thanks to a par at the 14th. DeChambeau missed from 10 feet before Molinari stepped up to hole the winning putt.
Europe swiftly followed that up with another point as Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson beat Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka 2&1 by clinching the 17th.
But back came the Americans. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson beat Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren 3&2 to reduce Europe's lead back to five, before Spieth and Thomas took centre stage.
They made it four birdies in five holes to beat McIlroy and Poulter to set up what should be a sensational Sunday in Paris.
It was a day that looked like belonging to Europe, but the two victories in those last two matches could prove vital for the United States ahead of Sunday's singles.
With a four-point lead heading into the individual matches, Team Europe held the advantage but some devastating putting from Team USA after a quiet first three sessions on the greens meant there was still plenty of golf to be played.
Europe were four-and-a-half points away from winning back the Ryder Cup, and captain Thomas Bjorn said afterwards:
" It's been a good day and we have to take all that in and take all the positives. There's plenty of examples of these scorelines not meaning a lot until you play the singles. I've seen too many times what the singles do, so we need to get back into the team-room and recover. We need to focus on what's ahead and not what's gone."
Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy set the standard, beating Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka 2&1, fighting off a three-hole fightback from the Americans to hold on for the point.
But it was Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton who sprung the big surprise, putting in a consistently strong performance to beat Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler 3&2.
Tiger Woods’ tricky weekend continued as he and Patrick Reed were thumped 4&3 Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood.
And the only respite for the Americans game in Match 4, where Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth came out on top in a high-drama match to take it 2&1 against Jon Rahm and Ian Poulter and half a winning streak by the European team.
Speaking after the morning session, European captain Thomas Bjorn said:
" We keep going, we keep going until the end. This is the way the morning session finished yesterday and we've got an afternoon session ahead of us that's going to be tough - there are going to be 16 really good golfers out there on the course. We'll keep pushing. Nothing's won, we're just over the halfway stage. There's no bit happiness yet, there's still a determination and work to be done."
Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton - Ryder Cup 2018Getty Images
Europe's strong start to Saturday built on their incredible comeback on Friday afternoon.
The hosts had trailed 3-1 after the opening Friday fourballs, but the second session saw an unlikely comeback as the leaderboard lit up blue.
First, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose combined to beat Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler 3&2, before Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter downed Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 4&2.
It got worse for the Americans. Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren inflicted a 5&4 defeat on Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, with a miserable session completed when Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood – the only Europeans to score a point in the morning – beating Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth by the same margin.
Alex Noren celebrates with Sergio Garcia during the afternoon foursome matchesGetty Images
The golf course changed in the afternoon with the wind picking up, and with it the momentum swung in Europe's favour.
It was a barnstorming comeback, the like not seen by a European team in a foursome before. Indeed, it was the first time that Team Europe completed a whitewash in any session since 1989.
They suffered a 4-0 reverse in the format en route to defeat in Hazeltine two years ago, but the nature of the victories will have sent European captain Thomas Bjorn off into the evening feeling confident that the momentum is now strongly on his side.
The Swede told Sky Sports: "We are one team and we did it with all 12 today. That was the plan. Those guys that sat out this morning I’m very proud of what they did because they came out and showed quality, class and this was a wonderful afternoon.
Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy helped swing the balance in Europe's favourGetty Images
"There's a long way to go in this but we go home with a good taste now and then we regroup for tomorrow."
Among the highlights was the success of Poulter and McIlroy, who was badly off form in the morning. The duo from two-down to triumph 4&2 over Simpson and Watson in a game that had the massive crowds finally roaring after they had little to shout about in the morning.
Jordan Spieth of the United States celebrates during the morning fourball matches of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 28, 2018 in Paris, France.Eurosport
The US made an impressive start to their defence as they produced a rousing finish to claim a 3-1 lead after the Friday morning fourballs.
Jim Furyk's side always looked the team more in touch with their game as only a 3&1 defeat for Patrick Reed and a toiling Tour champion Tiger Woods – struggling with a stiff back – to Open champion Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood in the bottom match prevented a whitewash.
Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau held out for a 1up victory over Justin Rose and Jon Rahm - who were two up with six holes remaining - while Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler were utterly dominated in a 4&2 victory over a poor Rory McIlroy and Thorbjørn Olesen.
Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton battled back from three down against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas after seven holes only for Thomas to birdie the 15th to apply the pressure.
Hatton missed a birdie attempt at the 18th to halve the match as the USA ended the session well in control of their own destiny with a two-point lead.
- Justin Thomas beat Rory McIlroy by 1
- Brooks Koepka and Paul Casey halved
- Webb Simpson beat Justin Rose 3&2
- John Rahm beat Tiger Woods 2&1
- Tony Finau beat Tommy Fleetwood 6&4
- Ian Poulter beat Dustin Johnson by 2
- Thorbjorn Olesen beat Jordan Spieth 5&4
- Sergio Garcia beat Rickie Fowler 2&1
- Francesco Molinari beat Phil Mickelson 4&2
- Patrick Reed beat Tyrrell Hatton 3&2
- Henrik Stenson beat Bubba Watson 5&4
- Alex Noren beat Bryson Dechambeau by 1
Saturday afternoon foursomes
- Henrik Stenson & Justin Rose beat Dustin Johnson & Brooks Koepka 2&1
- Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson beat Sergio Garcia & Alex Noren 3&2
- Francesco Molinari & Tommy Fleetwood beat Tiger Woods and Bryson Dechambeau 5&4
- Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth beat Rory McIlroy & Ian Poulter 4&3
Saturday morning fourballs: Europe 8 USA 4
- Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia beat Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau 2&1
- Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton beat Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson 3&2
- Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood beat Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods 4&3
- Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth beat Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm 2&1
Friday afternoon foursomes: Europe 5 USA 3
- Henrik Stenson & Justin Rose beat Dustin Johnson & Rickie Fowler 3&2
- Rory McIlroy & Ian Poulter beat Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson 4&2
- Sergio Garcia & Alex Noren beat Phil Mickelson & Bryson DeChambeau 5&4
- Francesco Molinari & Tommy Fleetwood beat Justin Thomas & Jordan Spieth 5&4
Friday morning fourballs: Europe 1 USA 3
- Justin Rose & Jon Rahm lost to Brooks Koepka & Tony Finau 1UP
- Rory McIlroy & Thorbjørn Olesen lost to Johnson & Rickie Fowler 4&2
- Paul Casey & Tyrell Hatton lost to Jordan Spieth & Justin Thomas 1UP
- Franceso Molinari & Tommy Fleetwood beat Patrick Reed & Tiger Woods 3&1