The U.S. flew in with confidence, but Europe arrived with a better golf game. And in the end, it wasn’t even close, as Europe’s 12 finest golfers knocked off a favored United States squad at Le Golf National to retake the Ryder Cup.
The U.S., under the direction of captain Jim Furyk, rolled into Paris with insanely, perhaps ridiculously high confidence. Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka led the charge, and after Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship last Sunday, giddy U.S. fans started comparing this team to the 1992 Dream Team. Heck, Michael Jordan was even on the grounds in Paris. What could go wrong?
Plenty, starting with the fact that the tournament was in Paris. The U.S. hadn’t won the cup on foreign soil in a quarter-century. Blame jet lag, blame hostile crowds, blame the course setup, blame French food … whatever excuse you want to use, the simple fact is that as vicious as the U.S. is on friendly fairways, the Americans flail when they cross the Atlantic.
It all started well enough; the U.S. won the first three matches on Friday, led by Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler’s 4&2 walloping of a listless Rory McIlroy and an overmatched Thorbjorn Olesen. But the final match of Friday morning proved to be an omen, as Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood thrashed would-be alpha dogs Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed. After one session, the United States led 3 to 1; it would be the last good moment for the Americans.
The Friday afternoon foursome session was an absolute beatdown. Every European team won, and only one match even reached the 16th hole. Fleetwood and Molinari continued their domination, and Ryder Cup vet Sergio Garcia and rookie Alex Noren were a revelation. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau looked utterly lost, and they weren’t alone. Europe flipped the entire script, leading the tournament 5 to 3 heading into the second day.
The woes for the Americans continued on Saturday morning, as Europe won the first three fourball matches for a run of eight in a row. Molinari and Fleetwood once again dusted Woods and Reed, and McIlroy, paired with Garcia, once again rediscovered his stroke. Only Spieth and Thomas, one of the USA’s few bright spots on the team front, stopped the bleeding to keep the final score at 8 to 4.
Saturday afternoon represented the last chance for the Americans to set themselves up for a Sunday stretch, and all the Americans could do was hold serve. They split the afternoon foursomes matches, with Molinari and Fleetwood winning their fourth match overall and their third over Woods. Thomas and Spieth once again won for the United States, and Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson provided an unexpected spark. Still, as the day ended, Europe led 10-6, and the singles matches loomed large.
Only two teams had ever come back from a 10-6 deficit in Ryder Cup history, so the United States was aware of the challenge it had ahead during the Sunday singles matches. Thomas began the scoring on Sunday by edging McIlroy on the 18th hole. Koepka and Casey halved their match, and both Webb Simpson and Tony Finau won theirs to draw the U.S. ever closer.
But Europe held strong. Olesen absolutely throttled Spieth, who fell to 0-6 in singles play across the Ryder and Presidents cups. Jon Rahm knocked off Woods, who never appeared to connect at all this week. Poulter, the most vocal Ryder Cup player in a generation, backed up his talk by knocking off world No. 1 Johnson on the 17th green. Further back on the course, Europeans pushed American players to the edge, unofficially clinching the victory when Mickelson missed a putt on 15. Mickelson conceded on the next hole, and the Ryder Cup belonged to Europe again.
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