Ryder Cup report cardsSeptember 30, 2018 Opinion
Who shone and who should have stayed at home? Professors Mark Townsend and Dan Murphy dish out their Ryder Cup report cards
The 2018 Ryder Cup made global heroes of some players, while others struggled again to transfer their individual success to golf’s finest team event. Mark Townsend, ranking Team Europe, and Dan Murphy, on Team USA duty, write their Ryder Cup report cards.
Ten years we’ve been waiting for this. Many questioned whether he was even worth a place on the team, as it played out he chaperoned a rookie in Tyrrell Hatton with the best scoring in the fourballs and was then dispatched second in the singles. From where three-time major winner Brooks Koepka didn’t drop a shot and still couldn’t get a win over the Englishman. From not having won a full point since 2006 we’re now praying he’ll still be around for Whistling Straits. B+
Everything was so much in his favour – the course, his form, the Open champion as his partner, it was even the week of his son’s birthday – that you felt something had to give. Nothing did. Even by Fleetwood’s now exceptional standards this was spectacular. The week ‘Moliwood’ was born, the week the two of them had a magnificent clean sweep over the first two days. It would be harsh to say he ran out of steam on Sunday, more that fellow rookie Tony Finau was too good on the day. A
The Spaniard got the most hammer when the picks were announced, now he’s Europe’s most successful ever Ryder Cupper.
Garcia was selected for a very good reason in that he is pretty much the perfect partner – his record is now W18 H6 L8 on the first two days. Europe had five rookies and he was assigned Noren in the foursomes. His finest moment came when, alongside Rory, he birdied 17 to close out a charging Finau and Koepka.
The draw was kind to him in the singles, he edged the scoreboard further on with a well-deserved third point to cap a remarkable week. A-
Anyone would have played second fiddle to Casey in the fourballs and he had a baptism of fire against JT, Spieth and their betterball 61 but still Europe took them down the 18th. Got off the mark and was more involved in a brilliant 3&2 dismantling of DJ and Fowler. Handled himself nicely with more smiles than any silly outbursts and came up against a finally rejuvenated Patrick Reed on Sunday, against a few other Americans he might have got a second point. C+
McIlroy’s Ryder Cup began and ended in desperate fashion with a birdie-free fourball and then having the stinker of the final hole against Justin Thomas after some incredible play which went unrewarded. In between there was some magic with his old sparring partners Poulter and Garcia but the abiding memory is of shaking hands with Thomas by the drop zone on 18. We’re still nowhere nearer to finding a partner for our superstar player and you still wonder how we can get the best out of him. B-
How on earth do you top winning the Open Championship? You do what no other European player has done and take all manner of major winners down, one after the other. To top it all off the record books will show that he deservedly secured the winning point, the odd thing was that it came on the 16th tee after Mickelson stuck it in the water. He had never won a full point before this. Now he has five of them. A+
The big question was whether we were going to get the thrusting Noren of Friday or the out-of-sorts Noren the following day in the singles? Thankfully we got the former and he got to play a great, if slightly odd, match with DeChambeau. One highlight was an eagle, just the second of the day along with Tiger, at 14, just as Europe reclaimed the cup. Another was the 40-footer at the last to close out the week for the win.
On day one he and Garcia were exceptional, better than anyone, in the Friday whitewash. B
Another to ‘suffer’ from the heroics of Frankie and Tommy, sounds like a food chain, as he was ‘benched’ on Saturday after playing steadily enough with Rory on Friday. Unfortunately McIlroy was out of sorts and they were done for by the 16th.
“Thorbjørn is a good egg and he’s a boy that will turn this around, and he might go out and show his old Danish friend that he was wrong,” said his good mate Bjorn.
And that he did, and then some. To re-emerge two days later and sink Jordan Spieth 5&4 with five birdies is almost unthinkable and came at the most timely moment. Brilliant. B
When the singles draw came out there was the suspicion that Poulter might end this, his likely final Ryder Cup, with a 1-3-0 record which would have been a travesty given his input this week. He got Rory going on Friday afternoon but then lost twice on Saturday with faltering partners.
But this is Poulter and this is the Ryder Cup and this is the singles where he has never lost. He might be 33 places below Dustin Johnson on the world rankings but why would that matter? For all the quality in this competition there’s not another player you would want playing the last with everything on the line. He bombed it past DJ, drilled it to six feet and the putt was conceded. Magic. B+
We’d waited some time for this and his first shot ended up wet, something he repeated the following day. On day three he made birdie. Got unlucky on that first morning when Finau ricocheted his way to a birdie at 16, then played poorly with Poulter on Saturday. There was plenty of energy and positivity but no points.
And then he faced Tiger in the singles and a more measured Rahm kept his nose ahead all day. We had to wait for the W when he whiffed a short one at 16, a few minutes later he made the most clinical birdie of the week at 17. Cue bear hugs, cue tears. C+
After all that went on at East Lake and recent weeks in the States the concern was how much Rose would have left in the tank? The answer was plenty; three times he led us off, twice he brought home the points with the only blip the Finau sleeper and then overshooting the 18th. Still, it was nice to actually see the final hole. He looked a good bet (yes, I did) against Webb Simpson but the underplayed American was rock-solid and saw him off at the 16th. B
He might have played in one of the fourballs if it wasn’t for the brilliance of ‘Moliwood’, as it was we had to settle for two lead-off foursomes with his old mucker Rose. And how reassuring it was to see him appear after the opening morning, and how depressing for the Americans to see him reappear when you’re 8-4 down.
If anyone summed up the beauty of Bjorn’s plan it was Stenson. The singles, against Bubba, seemed a formality given how rested and dominant the Swede had been. He did him 5&4. A
Let’s not forget how fancied the star-studded and spangled Americans were going into these matches and how, after all this time, they would win over here. Let’s not forget how his picks were questioned.
Now let’s remember how he had the course set up and quite how calm and calculated Bjorn has been throughout his leadership. Whatever the situation he’s trusted himself, he had a plan and he both stuck to it and was fluid with it and, what really came across, is how his team bought into his captaincy. He was beautifully low key and deserves all the credit that’s on his way. A
Head to the next page for Team USA’s report cards…