The blue wave of Europe swept over the United States as Thomas Bjorn’s team continued to take the fight to their opponents and dominate the Ryder Cup after Saturday’s morning fourballs.
Having slipped 3-1 behind after the corresponding opening session on Friday, Europe, who held a 5-3 advantage headed into day two, won the Saturday fourballs 3-1 to take a healthy 8-4 advantage into the afternoon foursomes.
United States captain Jim Furyk relied on the same combinations that had bullied Europe early on Friday, but this time Europe were more than equal to the challenge and only Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were able to get on the board for the US, overcoming the Ian Poulter and John Rahm combination 2&1.
Elsewhere, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, who were four holes up but then conceded three in a row in the nervy stretch coming home, held on for a 2&1 victory over Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau, while Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton combined for a 3&2 verdict over Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, while Open champion Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood continued their fairytale partnership by seeing off an out-of-sorts Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed 4&3.
Molinari has been a revelation. The Italian hadn’t won a match in two previous Ryder Cups, losing four and halving two matches, but with Fleetwood, the pair have won three out of three ties at Le Nationale in Paris. Fleetwood’s three points from three opening matches equals the same rookie total earned by Garcia when he made his debut in 1999.
In helping closing out the match against Koepka and Finau, Garcia took his second point of this year’s competition, to move his career total to 24.5. That’s just half a point behind Sir Nick Faldo, who is the Ryder Cup’s all-time leading point scorer. The elation was there for all to see in his ninth Ryder Cup, as he pumped his fist in jubilation after closing out the contest on the 17th green.
‘It was amazing. I thought we played great all day but they started coming hard at us in the last few holes,’ Garcia said. ‘There were a couple of mistakes but we knew we just had to keep giving ourselves chances. It was great for Rory to make that par putt because it gave me the freedom to go for it.’
McIlroy admitted that, ‘it was a little too tight for comfort in the end. We were four up with five to play and I should have birdied the 14th. We both found the water on the 15th and all of a sudden it means we had to put our heads together and play a couple of great holes. The putt to finish it off was incredible. You can see how much it means to us by Sergio’s reaction. He comes into his own in this tournament. His passion and fire is infectious and rubbed off on me today.’
Hatton, who helped fellow Englishman Casey beat the formidable Americans Johnson and Fowler, was also emotional afterwards. ‘It’s amazing, I’m almost lost for words, it’s such a special honour. Playing alongside Paul, he’s a Ryder Cup legend and what a player he is. It was the Casey express train on the front nine and I just tried to help where I could.’
Saturday afternoon foursomes (SA time)
1.50pm: Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson v Dustin Johnson & Brooks Koepka
2.05pm: Sergio Garcia & Alex Noren v Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson
2.20pm: Francesco Molinari & Tommy Fleetwood v Tiger Woods & Bryson DeChambeau
2.35pm: Ian Poulter & Rory McIlroy v Jordan Spieth & Justin Thomas
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images