Ryder Cup 2018: Europe launches historic fightback against USA
Scolded in the opening session, Europe hit back in spectacular fashion with an afternoon whitewash to take a 5-3 lead over USA into the second day of the Ryder Cup in Paris.
The home side won each of Friday’s alternate-shot foursomes for the first time ever to make amends after the defending champion took the morning fourballs 3-1.
Europe’s revival was led by the duo of Henrik Stenson and world No. 2 Justin Rose, who beat No.1-ranked Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler 3&2, and bookended by the English-Italian pair of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, who downed Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas 5&4.
As the resurgent European team tightened its grip, explosions of cheers from the colourful and increasingly vocal crowd became a regular feature of a sunny, blustery afternoon at Le Golf National.
“This was obviously a wonderful afternoon, disappointing morning but we go home with a good taste in our mouths,” European captain Thomas Bjorn told Sky Sports.
“These two teams are tough, they’re going to fight hard all the way to the end. This American team is very strong so we’ll wake up tomorrow and fight again.”
Europe has not lost on home soil since 1993 and has won six of the last eight editions of the biennial matchplay event, but Bjorn’s side was considered the underdog against a powerful USA, which won convincingly at Hazeltine, Minnesota two years ago.
“The event’s still pretty young,” USA captain Jim Furyk told reporters. “I think our guys will respond, I really do. I have a lot of confidence in this team.”
In the second match of the afternoon, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, whose victory together sparked the famous “Miracle at Medinah” in 2012, fought back from two down after five holes to win 4&2 against Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
“It’s great to play with Rory, the buzz around the golf course is just incredible,” said Poulter, back in the team for the first time since 2014. “The team have come out this afternoon and done what they do best which is be resilient. It’s awesome.”
Very quickly behind them, Sergio Garcia and Sweden’s Alex Noren polished off a 5-up win against 12-time Ryder Cup veteran Phil Mickelson and rookie Bryson DeChambeau.
Former Masters champion Garcia, chosen as a wildcard despite his poor for this season, and the underrated Noren, a French Open champion on this course, led by as much as seven holes at one stage.
To complete the rout, rookie Fleetwood and British Open winner Molinari trounced major champions Spieth and Thomas with ease.
In a neat twist, debutant Fleetwood’s son, Frankie, was celebrating his first birthday on the day his dad won with his Italian namesake.
The European pair earlier defeated Tiger Woods, fresh from a first PGA Tour win since 2013, and Patrick Reed to hand Europe its only point of the fourballs session. Furyk later downplayed a rumor that Woods as rested for the afternoon because of back issues.
“I’ve not heard that, ” he said.
The last time Europe won all four matches in a session was in 1989, when Spanish duo Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal sealed a 4-0 win in fourballs at The Belfry, England.
An expectant crowd packed the grandstands surrounding the first tee early Friday morning, singing, chanting and cheering from before dawn as they awaited the players.
In the first group out, Rose, who won the $10m FedEx Cup last weekend, and Spanish rookie Jon Rahm looked in control against three-time major winner Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau, leading by two holes heading into the back nine.
But the Americans won three of the final six holes to seal the win.
The US pairing of Fowler and Johnson clinched the first point of the competition, beating Danish rookie Thorbjorn Olesen and a misfiring McIlroy.
There was drama at the sixth hole when Keopka’s wayward tee shot hit a woman in the face.
She was treated by staff, who bandaged her head before sending her to hospital as a precaution. Reportedly the woman suffered no serious injuries.
Spieth and Thomas eventually got the better of Englishmen Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton to claim a third point for the Americans.
The first team to win 14.5 points will clinch the Ryder Cup. For the defender, 14 points will retain the Cup.