Europe’s land­mark surge leaves Furyk pray­ing for a mir­a­cle

Bjorn’s men march on to set up four-point lead Amer­i­cans be­gin in­quest as selections back­fire

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Ryder Cup - James Cor­ri­gan GOLF COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Le Golf Na­tional

If the Ry­der Cup is to fail to re­turn into Europe’s cus­tody for the fourth time in five matches this evening, then Amer­ica will have to stage its own ver­sion of the Mir­a­cle of Me­d­i­nah. Yet on all known ev­i­dence pro­vided here so far that seems a phe­nom­e­non too far. Call it “The Ir­ra­tional at Le Golf Na­tional”.

On a record-break­ing day for Thomas Bjorn’s team, Jim Furyk felt relieved that history, at least, gives the Amer­i­cans some sort of chance. The US, them­selves, came back from the same deficit to win in Brook­line in no­to­ri­ous fash­ion in 1999 and, of course, Europe over­hauled the four­point mar­gin in 2012.

That Chicago res­ur­rec­tion has to be the blueprint for Furyk, sim­ply be­cause of the fact they are away – but then, blue might not be the US cap­tain’s go-to colour at the mo­ment.

Furyk had to watch Tommy Fleet­wood and Francesco Moli­nari win their fourth match in a row and so be­come the first Euro­peans to do this in history.

In­deed, only Larry Nel­son and Lanny Wad­kins had ever be­fore gone 4-0 as a pair be­fore and that was back in 1979.

Nel­son is the only player to win five in five in a Ry­der Cup and that gives the in­cred­i­ble “Moli­wood” pair some­thing else to aim for. Fleet­wood can al­ready claim to have tied Thomas Pi­eters as Europe’s great­est debu­tant and the fact he can boast that he beat Tiger Woods three times out of three surely gives him the edge. An­other 100 per cent Ry­der Cup disaster for Woods.

Was it not sup­posed to be dif­fer­ent this time? Was he not sup­posed to be the great in­di­vid­ual – with his dra­matic come­back win in At­lanta last Sun­day – who had at last found the se­cret of how to play in­tense team match­play with an­other hu­man along­side him?

Stag­ger­ingly, this was his eighth los­ing Ry­der Cup match in a row in the pairs. If it is pos­si­ble, Woods seems more of a loner than ever.

“I lost three matches, and didn’t feel like I played poorly and that’s the frus­trat­ing thing about the Ry­der Cup,” Woods said, not look­ing or sound­ing at all like his re­cent self. “I’m just pretty p----- off.”

He had every right to be, not least be­cause in over­all de­feat he may have to wit­ness his en­emy Ser­gio Gar­cia be hailed as the great­est of all time.

The Spa­niard is now of­fi­cially the sec­ond best Ry­der Cup player as, cour­tesy of his and Rory McIl­roy’s 2&1 four­balls win over Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau, he moved to 24½pts.

That is only half a point be­hind Sir Nick Faldo and if he sees off Rickie Fowler in to­day’s sin­gles – which Furyk has pre­dictably front-loaded – then Gar­cia will top the list. To think. Bjorn was roundly crit­i­cised for se- the 2017 Mas­ters cham­pion as a wild card.

But all these in­di­vid­ual marks will ul­ti­mately be granted mi­nor league sta­tus in the team room, com­pared to the collective per­for­mance, should Europe force their way over a line which many thought would be be­yond them.

There was plenty of talk com­ing in of this US team – search­ing for their first win on away soil for 25 years – be­ing the finest to have tra­versed the At­lantic since the 1981 crowd of ma­jor win­ners who mopped up at Wal­ton Heath. But, in the event, not even the likes of Jack Nick­laus, Lee Trevino, Tom Wat­son and Ray Floyd con­jured a run­ning burst of form in the style of Bjorn’s he­roes.

From the last fourball on Fri­day morn­ing – at which stage, do not for­get, they were 3-0 down – un­til the third fourball yes­ter­day, Europe won every match – eight in suc­ces­sion.

Only the 1967 Amer­i­cans launched such a dev­as­tat­ing tear and, with re­spect, this op­po­si­tion is far more im­pres­sive. Furyk should get down on his knees and give thanks for Jor­dan Spilect­ing eth and, in par­tic­u­lar, the in­spired first­timer Justin Thomas be­cause they halted that tide of blue at lunchtime by beat­ing Ian Poul­ter and Jon Rahm 2&1.

Yes, they stopped the rot, but Le Golf Na­tional still threat­ens to top­ple in on the Amer­i­cans.

The Amer­i­can me­dia have al­ready started the in­quest, shin­ing the spot­light on Furyk’s pair­ings. No­body blamed him for bench­ing Phil Mick­el­son for the whole of yes­ter­day, but still he per­se­vered with some of his left­field pair­ings for the morn­ing four­balls, in­clud­ing Dustin John­son and Fowler, beaten 3&2 by Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hat­ton and Woods and Reed, beaten 4&3 by “Moli­wood”.

Casey shed tears when he and his rookie pre­vailed, hav­ing recorded his first win for Europe in 10 years. It must have felt like the old days of 2004 and 2006, when Casey was a young­ster mak­ing his first two ap­pear­ances and Europe routs – or “Eurouts” as they be­came known – were com­mon­place.

He re­vealed the last time he had cried was watch­ing a film and so the video nasty promised to roll on for the Amer­i­cans. Beaten 3-1 in their pre-

ferred four­balls, they went on to the four­somes, in which they were white­washed 4-0 on Fri­day. Would Sun­day even be nec­es­sary, bar the for­mal­i­ties?

Bubba Wat­son and Webb Simp­son caused some­thing of a shock by de­feat­ing Gar­cia and Alex Noren 3 & 2 and those proud bear­ers of the US re­silience, Spi­eth and Thomas, beat McIl­roy and Poul­ter 4&3. That has handed the Amer­i­cans the barest trace of a pulse and they will still flock here to­day in ap­pre­hen­sion. What the ma­jor­ity would give for a Satur­day re­play.

As ever in the Ry­der Cup, there were some bizarre mo­ments. There were 19 balls lost in the wa­ter in the four­balls and, in the af­ter­noon, Gar­cia and Noren man­aged to halve the third hole with a triple-bo­gey six.

There was ugly stuff, too. McIl­roy sud­denly swiv­elled on his an­kles af­ter hol­ing a putt and yelled at some­one in the crowd, with the fi­nal ri­poste “F--- off, come on!”.

It summed up Amer­ica’s Satur­day, it summed up their Ry­der Cup to this point. They need a mir­a­cle. And Europe merely crave the mun­dane but the glo­ri­ous.

Hit­ting back: Rory McIl­roy makes his feel­ings clear to the fan who claimed he ‘can’t putt’; (above, from top) Paul Casey hides his face af­ter break­ing down in tears on win­ning his first Ry­der Cup match in 10 years; Tiger Woods strug­gles and Justin Thomas leads the US fight­back

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.