One of the most highly anticipated tournaments in world sport teed off in style at Le Golf National, a pristine course just southwest of Paris, in clear European territory. This is the Ryder Cup, a hotly contested biennial clash that sees a team of Europeans face off against their counterparts from the United States.
The European line-up was very solid, with the likes of Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy alongside grizzled Ryder Cup veterans Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia
After a somewhat comfortable victory at Hazeltine in 2016 and having 11 of the 17 top ranked golfers in the world, the US were tipped as favourites heading into the 2018 iteration and hoping to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years. Captained by the experienced Jim Furyk and featuring huge names such as world number one Dustin Johnson, fresh-faced superstar Jordan Spieth and, of course, Tiger Woods, returning to the spotlight in good form after his win and strong showing in the Tour Championship only a week beforehand.
Despite the strength of the US team, the European line-up was still very solid, with the likes of Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy alongside grizzled Ryder Cup veterans Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia. The latter two were chosen as wildcard picks by accomplished European captain Thomas Bjørn.
Both teams included several debutants in this competition, with the European team fielding five rookies while the US named three. Among these were the loveable Tommy Fleetwood and huge Jon Rahm for Europe with the Americans opting for Spieth’s childhood friend Justin Thomas and the calculating “mad scientist” Bryson DeChambeau.
Fan-favourite McIlroy failed to hole a birdie throughout the entire morning
The USA took an early lead on the Friday morning, with impressive performances from the US pairs and an unusually sub-standard performance from fan-favourite McIlroy, who failed to hole a birdie throughout the entire morning. The only positive note for Europe was that the partnership between Merseyside lad Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari was beginning to blossom, as they pegged it back to 3-1 in favour of the US.
Despite an entertaining Friday Ryder Cup morning session, we were reminded of the danger the sport poses to spectators. Brooks Koepka’s wide tee shot on the 6th struck Corine Remande in her right eye, fracturing the socket and causing explosion of the eyeball.
Fortunes changed after lunch as the teams took to the course, the Europeans taking advantage in the alternate shot format; the US pairs looked almost uncomfortable with the smaller fairways and multiple water hazards scattered around Le Golf National. What followed was a clean sweep, with all four European pairs claiming the points with some brilliant golf, McIlroy and Poulter snatching a birdie to win the 13th being the stand-out pick.
Furyk placed his strongest competitors at the top of the card, and they won three and a half of the first five points
The Saturday rounds were a little more evenly matched, though the Europeans remained in control with Molinari and Fleetwood looking imperious after being paired up again by Bjørn. Spieth and Thomas’ synergy was a boon for the US, winning points to keep them within touching distance of Europe heading into Sunday’s singles. This was much to the delight of Patrick Reed, continually shushing and goading the European crowd throughout the weekend.
After the Miracle at Medinah, an incredible European comeback in 2012, anything was possible heading into the final day. Furyk placed his strongest competitors at the top of the card, and they won three and a half of the first five points to bring the US within two points of the European lead. The Europeans stood firm though, winning the later rounds with Molinari clinching the title for Europe.
The US put up a tough fight but will have to wait another four years to win on foreign soil, where Patrick Reed can resume his duel with the European followers. Better luck next time, Reedy.
Both sides have encouraging young talent, so we are expecting another fiery clash in two years’ time
So, it seems Thomas Bjørn got his selection spot-on, particularly his wild-card picks of Garcia and Poulter, who hadn’t had the greatest of years heading into this tournament, but always seem to deliver at the Ryder Cup. Will we be seeing either of them play or captain the European side in 2020? The outstanding pair of the tournament was, without a doubt, “Moliwood”, with Molinari and Fleetwood playing excellent golf alongside their flourishing bromance, with all of us hoping to see more in the future.
On the other hand, it was a quiet and disappointing Ryder Cup for the big US personalities. Tiger Woods looked jaded and demoralised, Phil Mickelson may be more fit for a captain role, with both golfers failing to justify their inclusion as wild cards.
So, what will happen next time out in Wisconsin? Once again, the Europeans have proven capable of leaving their egos at the door to deliver a true team performance, something the Americans themselves have stated they struggle with. Adopting a strong team mentality will be key- if they can do so, they will certainly be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come. Both sides have encouraging young talent, so we are expecting another fiery clash in two years’ time (especially if Patrick Reed is involved).