Ryder Cup: Europe roar back and make their own slice of history
Europe whitewashed the United States in foursomes for the first time in Ryder Cup history to turn the 42nd biennial contest on its head in Paris.
Trailing 3-1 after the morning fourballs, home captain Thomas Bjorn kept faith with his planned afternoon pairings – including a desperately out-of-sorts Rory McIlroy – and was rewarded with a remarkable rout at Le Golf National.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson set the tone with a 3&2 victory over Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler before McIlroy, who was the only player in the fourballs not to make a single birdie in the morning, partnered Ian Poulter to a 4&2 win over Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
Match three looked set to finish in record fashion when controversial wild card Sergio Garcia and rookie Alex Noren raced seven up on Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau after just nine holes, but the European pair eventually had to settle for a 5&4 success.
And Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari were soon celebrating a second win of the day, on the first birthday of Fleetwood’s son Frankie for good measure, by defeating Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, also 5&4.
The only previous sessions Europe had won 4-0 were both in fourballs, on the opening afternoon at Muirfield Village in 1987 and at The Belfry two years later.
“We believe in it as a group,” Bjorn said after ending the day with a 5-3 lead.
“There’s a few guys sitting out who you would normally see in the first session, but they were very keen to play [in the afternoon] and prove we are a team and we did it with all 12.
“That was the plan through the whole week, we wanted to get everyone on the course [on the first day].
“It was a wonderful afternoon after a disappointing morning but there is a long way to go.”
McIlroy commented: “I think a big thing for us this week is resilience and persistence. You have to persist until it turns around for you.
“[The] morning wasn’t ideal, but it was still a better start than Hazeltine.”
This was a reference to the whitewash Europe suffered in the opening session in 2016 and such a nightmare start was on the cards again until some late heroics from Molinari and Fleetwood, who birdied five of the last seven holes to beat Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed 3&1.
McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen had won just one hole in a 4&2 loss to Johnson and Fowler, while Rose and Jon Rahm twice enjoyed a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau in the opening match, but eventually lost on the 18th.
Finau had enjoyed a massive stroke of luck on the par-3 16th where his water-bound tee shot hit a wooden sleeper on the edge of the hazard and bounced to within three feet of the hole, and he holed for a winning birdie.
Rose then found the water with his approach to the 18th and the American pair had pulled off an unlikely win
Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton fell three down to Spieth and Thomas when Spieth made five birdies in the first seven holes.
But the English pair fought back superbly to get back on level terms after 13 holes, only for Thomas crucially to birdie the 15th and hold on for victory.
Molinari and Fleetwood were also in danger of suffering defeat when they lost three holes to par on the front nine to trail by two with eight to play, but Molinari birdied the 11th and 12th, Fleetwood repeated the feat on the 15th and 16th and Molinari finished the match in style with another birdie on 17.
In total the European pairs were four under par in the afternoon in difficult windy conditions and the Americans 11 over, with only some late birdies preventing an even worse disparity.
“We got the momentum in the morning and Europe flipped it quickly and got some unbelievable momentum in the afternoon for 4-0,” said US captain Jim Furyk.
“We played for eight points so far out of 28, a pretty small percentage of this golf tournament has been played. I think our guys will respond, I really do. I have a lot of confidence in this team.
“I think that [whitewash] is going to leave a sour taste in their mouth and they have to sleep on that. We’ll come back, and I bet we’ll be fine.”