The crowd at Le Golf National chanted “Ole, Ole, Ole” endlessly. Tommy Fleetwood shook out his long locks and gleefully bodysurfed over fans. Sergio Garcia was overcome with emotion. And the man whose stellar play over three days helped trigger the celebration remained the calm at the heart of the mayhem.
Francesco Molinari’s victory over Phil Mickelson clinched Team Europe’s Ryder Cup reclamation project, with the Italian golfer becoming the first European player to go 5-0 in a Ryder Cup. “It’s hard to describe,” he somberly and modestly told NBC. “I’m just so proud of everyone on the team — an amazing group of guys. Any one of us deserved to clinch the Cup.”
But the clinching opportunity came to Molinari, who had teamed with Fleetwood to help put Europe in a dominating position coming into Sunday’s 12 singles matches. “I was almost hoping Sergio would be the one,” he admitted after his match.
That would be Sergio Garcia, who won a point himself shortly afterward and now has amassed 25 1/2 points in Ryder Cup competition — topping Nick Faldo’s record of 25 — over the years. Garcia jubilantly and tearfully hugged his wife when he had helped take back the Cup, last won by the United States.
“More than anything, I think the feeling we have with each other, how well we connect with each other, how much fun we have in the team room, how many options we have in foursomes and fourballs — it makes it a little bit easier,” Garcia told NBC. “Then it just comes down to us playing and playing as well as we can.”
Europe entered play Sunday needing to reach 14 1/2 points in the singles matches, with each pairing counting for one point. The U.S. needed only to reach 14 to retain the Cup and started strong, cutting Europe’s lead to one point behind Justin Thomas (who contributed four of the U.S. points), Webb Simpson and Tony Finau, with Brooks Koepka and Paul Casey halving the fourth match.
But Europe’s lead was too much to overcome, with Thorbjorn Olesen topping Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm beating Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter besting the world’s No. 1 golfer, Dustin Johnson. That pushed Europe to the brink with 13 1/2 points and sent the crowd into spasms of “Ole, Ole, Ole” chants.
Two of the biggest U.S. names, Mickelson and Woods, came up empty with no points in six outings in the competition. Still, Rahm seemed in disbelief after Sunday possibly because of whom he had beaten.
“Tiger Woods. I grew up watching that guy,” he told NBC. “Just last week [in the Tour Championship], I was watching him win his 80th event.”
A U.S. comeback would have tied the biggest in Ryder Cup play, equaling the four-point American rally in 1999, and would have been the first by the Americans on European soil since 1993.
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