By Martyn Herman
PARIS (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia repaid his Ryder Cup captain's faith with a crushing 5&4 foursomes victory alongside Sweden's Alex Noren against Phil Mickelson and Bryson Dechambeau on Friday.
The 38-year-old Spaniard, handed a controversial wildcard by Thomas Bjorn despite missing the cut in all four majors this year, displayed his love of team golf as he helped spark a European revival having sat out the earlier fourballs.
After Europe had slipped 3-1 behind in the morning session, Garcia, on the winning side five times in his eight Ryder Cups, was sent out to repair some of the damage.
And the 2017 Masters champion duly delivered with some inspired play around Le Golf National.
"I've always said it, Ryder Cup, there's nothing like it," Garcia, who was serenaded by the fans wedged into the towering first tee grandstand as he walked out to begin his match, said.
"I've got an amazing partner. He played amazing. I think the front nine we played, in foursomes and on this course with the wind blowing, was spectacular.
"It was something that I will never forget."
Garcia and rookie Noren halved the opening hole but after that won seven of the next eight to leave the Americans reeling.
Leading by seven at the turn, they were even threatening to set a new record win in Ryder Cup foursomes since Europe combined to take on the United States in 1979.
Mickelson and Dechambeau avoided that humiliation with a mini-revival after the turn, snatching back a couple of holes courtesy of European bogeys at the 10th and 11th.
The 48-year-old Mickelson was required to chip in at the 12th to prevent Europe moving six up with six to play and his effort never worried the hole.
Garcia blotted his copybook when he found water with his tee shot at the 13th and Mickelson at least extended the contest to another hole with a long birdie putt.
There was no miracle escape though and handshakes were exchanged on the 14th green.
Garcia, dubbed the heartbeat of the European team when Bjorn included him as one of his captain's picks, led the crowd in a 'thunderclap' celebration and will be eager to get going again on Saturday morning with Rory McIlroy.
With 23.5 Ryder Cup points since making his debut as a young gun in 1999, Garcia is now within striking distance of Nick Faldo's European points record of 25.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)