Europe wins Ryder Cup; U.S. remain winless on European soil since 1993

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SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – For the sixth straight time, Europe won the Ryder Cup on its home soil.

Captain’s Thomas Bjorn’s team topped the U.S., 17 1/2 to 10 1/2, on Sunday.

Francesco Molinari locked up the clinching point when Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot in the water at the par-3 16th and conceded the match to the Open champion, 4 and 2, while still on the tee.

The Americans remain winless on European soil since 1993. Europeans have now won seven of the last nine events, dating back to 2002.

Molinari became the first European player in history to go 5-0-0 in a Ryder Cup, as the senior leaders of the U.S. team, Mickelson and Tiger Woods, combined to go 0-6-0.

Sergio Garcia is now the all-time leader in Ryder Cup points won with 25 1/2, while Mickelson is now the all-time leader in matches lost with 22.

Here’s how all the matches played out this week at Le Golf National outside Paris:

TOTAL SCORE: EUROPE 17 1/2, U.S. 10 1/2 

Sunday singles: Europe 7 1/2, U.S. 4 1/2 

Match 17: Thomas (US) def. McIlroy (E), 1up
Incredible match from beginning to end. One of the best of the week. Thomas won the first hole, then McIlroy won the next three in a row. The match was square on the 18th tee, and McIlroy drove it into a fried-egg lie in a bunker. It didn’t end well for him. He ended up conceding to Thomas in the final fairway.

Match 18: Casey (E) vs. Koepka (US), halved
Hard to believe, but this was the first halved match of the Ryder Cup. Neither player was ever more than 1 up at any point and both played slightly better than average. Casey’s birdie on the 17th to square the match was as big a clutch moment as you can have.

Match 19: Simpson (US) def. Rose (E), 3 and 2
This was a bit of an upset but a point the U.S. had to have for momentum. Simpson lost his first match but quietly won his next two to become an unsung hero for an American team that desperately needed one. Rose seemed tired.

Match 20: Rahm (E) def. Woods (US), 2 and 1
Woods never led the match, although Rahm was never more than 2 up either. Woods appeared exhausted and unenthused. Rahm took advantage to earn his first Ryder Cup point in the grandest of fashions.

Match 21: Finau (US) def. Fleetwood (E), 6 and 4
Finau was an absolute monster in this match, and the previously undefeated Fleetwood couldn’t do much to combat him. Finau was 5 up after nine holes and never looked back. A great, great week for Finau, who will most assuredly make more Ryder Cups.

Match 22: Poulter (E) def. Johnson (US), 2 up 
Poulter turned into Poulter one more time against the world’s top-ranked player. Poulter was 2 up after four holes, but Johnson was up after 12. Poulter would have none of it. He birdied 14 and 15 to seize control, closing it out on 18.

Match 23: Olesen (E) def. Spieth (US), 5 and 4
Some things defy explanation, and Spieth now goes to 0-6 all-time in singles play for U.S. teams in the Presidents and Ryder cups. Olesen sat out all day on Saturday and came out steady against Spieth, who made only one birdie.

Match 24: Garcia (E) def. Fowler (US), 2 and 1
The full point made Garcia the top point earner in the history of the Ryder Cup, surpassing Nick Faldo. This match was fairly close, too, but Fowler never led at any point. The cup was determined before this was over, so it was icing on the European cake.

Match 25: Molinari (E) def. Mickelson (US), 4 and 2
When Mickelson dunked it in the water on the 16th hole, Molinari clinched the winning point for Europe and also went a perfect 5-0 for the week. Just an incredible week for The Open champion. Mickelson played poorly again and ended the week 0-2.

Match 26: Reed (US) def. Hatton (E), 3 and 2
Reed made up in part for poor performances the previous two days in a match that he won easily against an overmatched Hatton. Too bad for the Americans that the cup was decided well before this point.

Match 27: Stenson (E) def. Watson (US), 5 and 4
Watson remains winless in Ryder Cup singles matches and Stenson was 3 up after five holes. Again, this was not really particularly close and Watson struggles. Stenson birdies four of the first seven holes.

Match 28: Noren (E) def. DeChambeau (US), 1 up
This match went all the way 18 long after the matches have been decided. One down with one to play, DeChambeau flagged his approach to the final green, but Noren holed a lengthy birdie putt to end the matches and officially start the European celebration.

TOTAL SCORE: EUROPE 10, U.S. 6

Saturday afternoon foursomes: Europe 2, U.S. 2

Match 13: Rose-Stenson (E) def. Johnson-Koepka (US), 2 and 1
The closest match of the session, and it’s no surprise that it came down to Stenson making a 10-footer to save par on the 17th hole to win the match. Rose and Stenson continue to roll when paired together while Johnson and Koepka couldn’t recapture magic of the past.

Match 14: Watson-Simpson (US) def. Garcia-Noren (E), 3 and 2
This was a questionable foursomes lineup for the U.S. and it turns out it was their best duo. Garcia and Noren slapped it around in average fashion, as Watson and Simpson went 4 up through eight and easily hold on.

Match 15: Molinari-Fleetwood (E) def. Woods-DeChambeau, 5 and 4
This was a clinic from the very beginning, and the victory gave the European team a perfect 4-0 record together this week. Both played great and never allowed any openings for the Americans. On the other hand, Woods (0-3) and DeChambeau (0-2) played awful and are both winless on the week.

Match 16: Spieth-Thomas (US) def. Poulter-McIlroy (E), 4 and 3
Poulter and McIlroy looked like they both finally ran out of gas. They didn’t provide much of a fight for Spieth and Thomas, particularly down the stretch. The Americans were only 1 up after seven but appeared in control and were 4 up after 13.

TOTAL SCORE: EUROPE 8, U.S. 4

Saturday morning fourballs: Europe 3, U.S. 1

Match 9: Garcia-McIlroy (E) def. Koepka-Finau (US), 2 and 1
Garcia and McIlroy were putting demons, making everything they needed to make. They were 4 up after 13, they lost the next three holes in a row, and then Garcia sealed it with a monster birdie putt on the 17th. They were a combined 7 under par.

Match 10: Casey-Hatton (E) def. Johnson-Fowler (US), 3 and 2
The Americans didn’t do anything spectacular and honestly they were lucky to take the match as deep as they did. The Europeans were a combined 9 under, and there’s just nothing you can do with that kind of display. Casey’s putter was on fire.

Match 11: Molinari-Fleetwood (E) def. Woods-Reed (US), 4 and 3
A thumping of epic proportions. Reed played as poorly as anyone has ever played in the Ryder Cup. Ever. Woods kept them in the match until European putters heated up again, winning four of the last five holes. This Euro duo is now 3-0 together.

Match 12: Spieth-Thomas (US) def. Poulter-Rahm (E), 2 and 1
The only bright spot for the Americans in the session, and they had to fight for it. Rahm and Poulter weren’t on top form, and Spieth and Thomas combined for 10 birdies, including a huge one on the 17th that kept the match from going the full way.

An Inside Look as the Open Returns to Royal Portrush

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Before Augusta National’s “Amen Corner” there was “Calamity Corner,” the renowned 16th at Royal Portrush Golf Club’s Dunluce Links.

This week, golf viewers around the world will get to know this hole as the Open Championship makes its epic homecoming to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951. 

Royal Portrush’s Head Professional for the last twenty years, Gary McNeill, has extremely high expectations for the anticipated 148th Open.

However, the course that players will face starting Thursday morning does not look exactly like the track that McNeill and the rest of the Portrush community have cherished since its inception. 

In order to accommodate the influx of fans expected by the R&A each year at the Open, the Dunluce has had to undergo some major alterations. The only space large enough for the required spectator village was the land occupied by the original Harry Colt-designed 17th and 18th holes. 

Although the final two holes held a special place in Portrush’s history, the members were willing to build two new holes, slotted in as the 7th and 8th, which borrowed land from the club’s second course, the Valley Links. Other notable renovations include two new bunkers on the 1st and a new championship tee box on the 14th, making the hole 80 yards longer. 

“Everything that Martin Ebert, the architect, has done is very much in keeping with what was already here,” said McNeill. “It just feels like the course is almost a better golf course with the addition of the two new holes.”

The old 17th and 18th holes were situated on a relatively flat piece of the property and “didn’t have a lot of character” McNeill explained. The new 7th and 8th holes, on the other hand, boast sweeping undulations that run throughout the fairways and greens and are located in one of the most scenic sections of the golf course. 

Another picturesque hole, the 5th, named “White Rocks,” is a 380-yard downhill dogleg par four, featuring three new fairway bunkers, including two that are about 300 yards from the tee, strategically placed to catch wayward drives. The real danger, though, lies behind the green. The tiered putting surface slopes away from you, toward the daunting cliffs of White Rocks beach. A treacherous out-of-bounds line is only a few paces off the back of the green. 

“During the championship they will play the players up a bit, to entice them to have a crack at the green. It’s what the R&A look upon as a ‘risk and reward’ short par four where there’s a bit of entertainment for the spectators,” said McNeill. “If they get a hard bounce, or catch some of the slopes there, they could run out of bounds over the back. We anticipate that there will be quite a bit of drama on this one.” 

Royal Portrush’s most famous hole, the unnerving par three 16th, fittingly named “Calamity Corner,” will prove to be drama-prone as well, especially during the Sunday finish. Measuring at a lengthy 236 yards, it is played over a “very deep chasm which lies between the tee and the green and on the right-hand side,” said McNeill.

To the left of the green is a shallow swale, a sort of safe-haven for players who either unconsciously or consciously choose to guard against the danger to the right. In the 1951 Open, Bobby Locke purposefully played to this area each day of the championship and made an up-and-down par each time, giving the corner a title that stuck: Bobby Locke’s Hollow. 

Will players be happy to walk away from Calamity Corner with a par? “They’d be delighted,” McNeill emphatically remarked.  

Like at any traditional links course, the swirling coastal winds will play a major factor. But Royal Portrush takes this challenge to a new level. 

“There are no two holes that consecutively run in the same direction,” explained McNeill. “You are constantly dealing with winds coming from different directions.”

As a whole, Portrush is known to be a driver’s golf course. In order to attack pins on the Dunluce’s many elevated greens, it is imperative to be playing from the manicured fairways. 

The rough, on the other hand, is nightmarish. According to McNeill the tall grass is “particularly penal this year. It has been unusually warm through the winter and the spring months so it’s a little juicier than it normally would be at this time of year.” 

Whose game will fit this masterfully crafted puzzle-like links? 

McNeill has his eye on the 28-year-old Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, whose accuracy off the tee could give him a great shot at being named this year’s Champion Golfer of the Year. 

“Tommy Fleetwood is a great driver of the golf ball and he’s been knocking on the door at the US Open on tough golf courses, where the premium is very much on driving the ball in play.”

McNeill noted that the Portrush community has a great deal of confidence in Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, and Darren Clarke, three Northern Ireland natives. Additionally, Brooks Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliot, grew up playing Royal Portrush. 

“Ricky knows this golf course very well and Brooks – there’s not many players playing better than him now, particularly in major championships,” said McNeill. 

When the Claret Jug is raised Sunday evening in the shadows of the Dunluce castle ruins, golf viewers will all be hoping it does not take another 68 years for the Open Championship to make another swing through this dreamscape on the coast of Northern Ireland. 

Furyk: Reed, Tiger knew ‘weeks in advance’ they’d partner

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One week after watching the Europeans celebrate at Le Golf National, Jim Furyk admitted that the sting of defeat still lingers from his stint as U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

“It’s been tough,” Furyk said. “I was the leader of that team, and it didn’t go the way we wanted. It’ll always bother me.”

Furyk sat down with Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte for a wide-ranging interview in the wake of a 17 1/2 to 10 1/2 defeat to Thomas Bjorn’s European squad last week in Paris. While topics included the demanding course setup and the underwhelming performances from Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, two captain’s picks who combined to go 0-6, Furyk also expanded on his decision to pair Woods with Patrick Reed in two fourball matches.

Reed seemingly lobbed a grenade at his teammates and captain in the wake of the American loss, explaining that it was Jordan Spieth’s idea to break up their formidable pairing from the past two Ryder Cups and calling the decision-making process a “buddy system” that excludes the input of some players.

But according to Furyk, Reed was in the loop on his pairing with Woods well in advance, all the way down to having a discussion with the captain about where exactly he’d like to be slotted among the four matches during Friday’s opening session.

“When I started looking at who (Tiger) would pair well with, I kept coming back to Patrick Reed,” Furyk said. “There was always the idea that we could go Tiger and JT (Justin Thomas), and Patrick and Jordan, but ultimately they knew going into the week, weeks in advance, they knew they would start the Ryder Cup with Patrick and Tiger being partners.”

Furyk also discussed the other piece of tabloid fodder to emerge after the tournament, that being an alleged incident between Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka on their final evening in Paris. Koepka denied the report last week at the Alfred Dunhill Links, and Furyk clearly refuted an additional report that anything happened on the team charter to France.

And while Furyk reiterated the close relationship between the two friends, he also seemed to imply that some sort of incident, however minor, did occur.

“Whatever altercation started, or what happened, it was very brief. It was very short. Neither one of them really took anything out of it,” Furyk said. “They’re like brothers. Brothers may argue, brothers get into it. But they’re as close as they’ve ever been, and it really had no effect on either one of them.”

Although Furyk admitted that the sound defeat his squad suffered has left him with a “hollow feeling,” he told Rosaforte that after 18 months of preparation for three days of matches, the only thing that surprised him was the final outcome for a team that he very much believed in – and still does.

“I’d take those 12 players into the fire any day, on any course. And I still would,” Furyk said. “Last week didn’t work out the way we wanted, but I love those guys and I love what we had together in the team room. And I’d do it all over again.”