Europe held off a valiant final-day comeback from a rejuvenated Team USA to regain the Ryder Cup with a 17.5-10.5 triumph after a tense, dramatic and historic afternoon at Le Golf National.
Ryder Cup results
Their overnight four-point lead was whittled down to just one when Jim Furyk’s side won three of the top five matches, but Thomas Bjorn’s united Europe had the upper hand in the middle order of the singles draw and victory was secured in fitting fashion when Francesco Molinari became the first European to win five points out of five.
Sergio Garcia beat Rickie Fowler to surpass Nick Faldo as the leading points scorer in Ryder Cup history, Ian Poulter lived up to his reputation as “The Postman” as he delivered a point with victory over Dustin Johnson, and it then became a race to have the honour of the winning point with three matches dormie.
With Henrik Stenson and Garcia both on the verge of adding further points, Molinari won his record-breaking match when the hapless Phil Mickelson tugged his tee shot to the 16th into water and shook hands with the Open champion on the tee, and Europe went on to win by a convincing seven-point margin.
Justin Thomas won his fourth point of the week in the opening singles when Rory McIlroy made a mess of the final hole and was forced to concede defeat before the pair had got to the green, while Webb Simpson and Tony Finau put more red on the board with handsome wins over Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood respectively.
But Paul Casey snatched a valuable half against Brooks Koepka in match two and, after rookie Thorbjorn Olesen completed a thumping 5&4 win over Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm broke into frenzied and emotional celebrations on the 17th green after a memorable win over Tiger Woods – leaving the American without a point for the contest in four attempts.
That defeat for Woods was his 21st in his eight Ryder Cup appearances and left him tied for the most overall losses, but Mickelson soon lost his 22nd match with, possibly, his final shot in the competition.
The final day of the 42nd edition of the showpiece began in glorious conditions and with Europe full of optimism after dominating the opening four sessions, but the tension was evident midway through the singles when the projected scores suddenly read 14-14, a draw resulting in Team USA retaining the trophy.
The nerves heightened when McIlroy, all-square with Thomas going up the last, blocked his tee-shot into a plugged lie in a bunker and needed two attempts to get out – the second catching the lip of the trap and trundling into the water hazard.
Europe’s lead-off man was forced to concede after taking five shots to reach the green, while world No 2 Rose was also out-of-sorts and slumped to three down after eight holes against Simpson, a deficit that the Englishman was unable to claw back.
Fleetwood, the first rookie to win his first four matches in the Ryder Cup, could not reproduce his form of the first two days and Finau took advantage of his opponent’s error-strewn start, with the American then putting the hammer down with four birdies in five holes from the seventh and wrapping up an impressive 6&4 win.
But Casey levelled his clash with Koepka with a superb birdie at the 17th and came within half-an-inch of holing from 25 feet for another at the last, while Rahm was pegged back by a Woods eagle at nine and a birdie from last week’s Tour Championship winner at 12 took him back to all-square.
Woods, however, promptly bogeyed the next two holes to hand the advantage straight back to the fiery Spaniard, who was reduced to tears when he closed out the match with a stunning approach to 17 and converted the chance.
Poulter was one down to Johnson with six to play, but the world No 1 then produced a string of errors aside from draining his second monster putt of the day at the 16th, and Poulter held on for another famous win – one of many in his glittering association with the Ryder Cup.
Spieth could not recover from three straight early bogeys and slumped to a lacklustre defeat to give Olesen his first Ryder Cup point, before Garcia added to the list of records broken over the week when he held off an erratic Fowler to earn his place at the top of the points-won league table – 25 and a half.