Victory against the odds
John Woodroffe, World of Golf London Master Professional, reflects on a wonderful Ryder Cup
Well, who’d have thought that was going to happen? Europe take on arguably the strongest US Ryder Cup in history and not only win, but frankly, crush them.
As ever with these surprises, there are no single causes of the result. One factor is how well the course was set up to play to the European strengths. Or perhaps it simply negated the American power? They are used to bombing the ball out there. With most of the courses they play on being long, but fairly open, with galleries trampling what little long grass there is at the sides, they are not familiar with the need to keep the ball on the fairway. This course really punished wayward drives.
Many of the Americans were far from fresh, having played all the FedEx cup tournaments just prior to the Ryder Cup. In contrast, few Europeans took part.
Only Justin Thomas had played the course before. No surprise then that he was the highest US points scorer. Meanwhile the Europeans were well versed in the intricacies of this Parisian beauty.
You could also question the wildcards for America, such as Phil Michelson, who was so out of form, he was kept off the course all of Saturday.
But whatever you think were the contributing factors, the end result is a spectacular win for Europe.
For me, the Friday afternoon foursomes was the key. We had let what should have been a 2-2 morning fourball scoreline slide to a 3-1 to America, partly due to amazing good fortune for Tony Finau when his tee shot on the 16th struck the wood surrounding the lake and instead of heading for the expected watery grave, it popped up next to the pin for a hole winning birdie. There followed an uncharacteristic capitulation by Justin Rose on 18.
That could have turned Europe’s confidence, but instead, led by the amazing pairing of Molinari and Fleetwood, they bounced back with the first ever 4-0 whitewash.
Saturday morning continued in the same vein and in fact, the score went from 3-1 to America, to 8-3 to Europe. That is 8 wins and no losses. Again I suggest that has to be some sort of record. Europe held on in the afternoon foursomes on Saturday leaving a strong 4 point lead going into Sunday’s singles.
There is always a point when the momentum swings and it seems that what was a comfortable lead is drifting away and so that happened on Sunday. At one point if the matches had finished at the point they were, Europe were down to a slim 1 point victory and with 6 of the matches close, a small momentum swing more to America would have cause an unthinkable defeat. But just as that was possible, Europe’s middle guard found their strength and pulled away. After the defeat of Rory in match one and Paul Casey unable to finish off Koepka, plus Fleetwood getting a thumping from Tony Finau, the top pairings left us vulnerable. But, Poulter the postman delivered in awesome style, Molinari completed a clean sweep of American scalps and Jon Rahm came through in a sweaty match with the great Tiger. Suddenly the finish line was in sight. It was so fitting that Garcia and Molinari finished the match between them, with Garcia taking Sir Nick Faldo’s all time points scoring record and Molinari winning an unsurpassed 5 points in one match.
So the cup comes back to Europe and it will be 29 years of failing to win the away match for the Americans when they return to Rome in 2022. Bring on the 2020 game, you can bet the Americans will be baying for blood. A final thought: once again the big winner in this titanic struggle was the game of golf itself. The matches were played in a partisan atmosphere with huge galleries, but as a shot was played the silence and respect shown to the players by the crowds made you proud.