Not many gave Thomas Bjorn’s side much of a chance but now we’re celebrating yet another home victory after three magical days at Le Golf National. Mark Townsend highlights a few of the reasons Europe ran out winners once again…
A team effort
Everybody won a point, everyone played their part. If anything demonstrated quite how important it was to play as a 12 it was the fact that McIlroy, Rose and Fleetwood were beaten in the top five singles.
Thorbjorn Olesen spent Saturday cheering his side on, Jon Rahm spent much of Saturday trying to get his head in the right place to make an impact the following day. The Dane hammered Spieth, Rahm made a majestic birdie at 17 to see off his boyhood here Tiger.
They were as timely as they were crucial. They were all superstars but there wasn’t an ego to be seen anywhere; in the press conferences, on the course or in any of their behaviour. They embraced the fanfare, ran with it, played their hearts out and upset what was thought to be maybe America’s greatest team.
There was the odd step backwards but, in the end, far too many in the other direction, plenty of them from the wondrous axis of Fleetwood-Molinari.
People questioned whether Bjorn’s picks were too safe, too conservative. Too many veterans out of form and had we not learnt the lessons from Hazeltine?
Well, here you go. Stenson won all three of his matches, Casey was the best player for the first two days, Garcia is our highest ever points’ scorer and Poulter beat the Word No. 1. They contributed nine and a half points, they were the perfect foils to our five rookies and, who knows, for all four of them it might be their final match.
There’s an awful lot to be said for class and experience and if, like these four, they’re supreme match players then you’re on to a bloody good thing.
By the time we get to Whistling Straits we’ll all be trotting out the fact that it’s now 29 years since the Americans have won over here. Playing in front of your own fans and on a course you’re overly familiar with should never be underestimated – had it not been for Medinah we would have had seven straight home victories.
Jim Furyk couldn’t repeat the point often enough.
“I’ve been saying it all week, one of the things I think Ryder Cup Europe does so well is that they hold this event on a venue their team knows very well. They love this golf course. Their players are very prepared for it,” he said.
“We go play major championships all the time where we haven’t seen the course before. I won a major championship at the US Open and I had never seen the course before. You should be able to prepare and get ready, but that little local course knowledge helps.”
Noren won here a few months ago, Fleetwood the year before, Molinari has two runners-up spots and Poulter hasn’t missed a cut in 13 goes at the French Open. How many Americans tried this year? Only Justin Thomas. Fair play to him and he got rewarded with four points from five.
Otherwise Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka had a missed cut next to their names here.
The course set-up
Every other year we’re all told that one team holed more putts than the other and that was the difference. It’s as easy as it is boring to keep repeating.
So how refreshing it’s been not to have that point of view rammed down our throats, to hear how superior ball striking has been the key to unlocking the course and that the graduated rough will put paid to any erratic hitting.
You can’t play this course from the second cut of rough and you have to be on top of your game to handle it in the wind – look at what happened in the gusts of Friday.
Much of the talk beforehand was of the last four holes, not one match went down the last for the middle three sessions.
This is so easy to say with the benefit of Harry Hindsight but Bjorn keeping some of his star names back for Friday afternoon was crucial.
On paper Mickelson and DeChambeau, 6th and 7th on the Birdie Average stats for the PGA Tour, seemed so much more fourball than foursomes. Why the need to send out your eight big guns on the first morning? The depression of that first session took about an hour to subside as Europe achieved their first ever foursomes whitewash.
Four of the five European rookies had got a game in straight off, they had all been chaperoned by an experienced hand and then came some of the big artillery – Stenson, Garcia, Poulter.
Take out that 4-0 and the first two days were all square.