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Shane Lowry celebrates. Alamy Stock Photo
revenge in rome

Europe withstand United States rally to reclaim the Ryder Cup

Tommy Fleetwood finally secured the final half-point his side needed to claim a deserved victory.

Europe 16.5

USA 11.5

EUROPE HAVE RECLAIMED the Ryder Cup, avenging but not matching their 19-9 hammering at Whistling Straits two years ago.

A five-point overnight lead made a record winning margin possible, but having collected 3.5 of the four points they needed to win the Cup across the first six matches, they were made to sweat across the afternoon until Tommy Fleetwood guaranteed a tie against Rickie Fowler on the 16th hole of the penultimate match to seal the victory.

Shane Lowry would have won it had Fleetwood not delivered with a stunning drive to the 16th; Lowry sinking a putt on the 17th to guarantee at least a tie against Jordan Spieth having trailed by two seven holes earlier. Lowry instead took the final putt of the competition, missing the chance to beat Spieth. Not that it mattered to him.

“This is a dream come true for me, it’s something I always wanted to achieve”, said Lowry afterwards. “I am so proud of my team. It has been the greatest week of my life. Those last two hours were the most stressful two hours of my life, I could see it wasn’t going too well for us. Me and Tommy joked this morning that hopefully it doesn’t come down to us, but thankfully Tommy did the business.”

Europe needed just four points across the 12 singles matches to win, and Luke Donald set about claiming them early, front-loading his selections with Jon Rahm leading Europe off, followed by Viktor Hovland. That Donald slotted Justin Rose in third and ahead of Rory McIlroy in fourth meant we were denied a reunion between McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay after yesterday’s 18th green-fireworks.

Europe’s three superstars delivered, as they had all week. Rahm battled Scottie Scheffler in an epic, eddying battle. Rahm went 2-UP through the first five as Scheffler typically struggled on the greens, but the world number one hauled himself level before the turn. Scheffler then took the lead on 11, only for Rahm to win two in a row to swing the match back his way. Not for long.

Scheffler won two in a row, making birdie on 15. Rahm, however, took it all the way to 18th, where again he delivered: Scheffler overcooked a chip from the front-right to a back-left pin, with Rahm lagging a gorgeous eagle putt to the brim of the hole. Scheffler then had to chip in from a slope facing into the water but couldn’t seal the deal, allowing his one-hole lead slip for a tied match.

Hovland, meanwhile, brushed aside Collin Morikawa and was first to put a point on the board, winning 4&3. McIlroy then sealed his best-ever Ryder Cup week with a 3&2 win over Sam Burns, saying yesterday’s clash with Joe LaCava – caddie to Cantlay -”lit a fire” beneath his team-mates, and provided him with renewed focus ahead of today’s climax. He then fought back tears, reminiscent of his post-round interview at Whistling Straits two years ago, albeit this time in an entirely different context.

europes-rory-mcilroy-celebrates-after-winning-his-singles-match-against-united-states-sam-burns-31-on-the-17th-green-at-the-ryder-cup-golf-tournament-at-the-marco-simone-golf-club-in-guidonia-monte Rory McIlroy celebrates. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“Ever since Whistling Straits I was so disappointed with my performance, so to come here and win four points, means a lot to me”, said McIlroy. Europe’s top trio delivered 10.5 points between them, which ultimately made all the difference.

Justin Rose’s brave resistance to the brilliant Cantlay ultimately fell on 17, beaten 2&1.

That left Europe needing 1.5 points to win, and Tyrrell Hatton delivered the greater share of them by beating Brian Harman 3&2. Many of Europe’s lesser likes struggled, however, and the scoreline narrowed when Brooks Koepka beat Ludvig Aberg 3&2.

Europe still needed only a single tie from any of the six matches still on the course, and Matt Fitzpatrick was given an unlikely chance to seal it on the 18th green against Max Homa.

Homa, America’s best performer, inexplicably followed Fitzpatrick into the water on 16, and when that and the 17th were halved, Homa had to take it down the par-five 18th to extend the contest. He blew way right on the fairway, took a penalty drop with his ball buried in a thicket of rough, and chipped to within range to get up and down. Fitzpatrick, however, had a putt to make birdie and tie the match, but agonisingly saw his putt slide past the hole. Homa kept his nerve from seven feet to keep the US in the fight.

Attention then turned down a leaderboard splashed with red to see where Europe’s final half-point would come from. Shane Lowry was the first to bleach some red from the live scoreboard, birding the 14th to square his match with Jordan Spieth, having trailed by two after 10. Spieth, however, hit back instantly, rolling in a monster putt on 15 for birdie to go 1-UP.

Sepp Straka drew roars with an improbable chip in on 16 to cut Justin Thomas’ lead to 1-UP with two remaining, and survived a tentative putt on 17 when Thomas blew his chance to win the match right of the hole. Where Straka survived, Nicolai Hojgaard fell, unable to match Xander Schauffele’s birdie on 16 to lose 3&2.

Europe wobbled. Tommy Fleetwood saw a 2-UP lead over Rickie Fowler cut to one on 14 and the missed a sitter to restore it on the very next hole, with Fowler holding his nerve to tie the hole. Robert MacInytre collapsed: squandering his 3-UP lead by missing a five-footer to allow Wyndham Clark get the match back to all-square.

Straka found the fairway in 18 and then right into the front-right bunker, as Thomas had to lay-up onto the fairway out of the rough.

Lowry battled back, sending a silky chip out of a bunker on the 16th rolling to the hole. Spieth’s chip from a horror lie in the rough didn’t make it further than 10 feet, and Lowry swung the match back to all-square. He then stood on the par-three 17th and narrowly missed the green to the left, but Spieth unbelievably missed further left than Lowry. The closing trio of holes at Marco Simone have set a new bar for matchplay drama.

But it was back on 16 where all was settled. Fowler stood on the tee at the drivable par-four and hooked the ball into the water, meaning Fleetwood had the chance to go 2-UP with two to play, thus securing the tie and half-point needed to win the Cup. Fleetwood could have played it safe – laid-up with a three-wood, even put a drive into the bunker from which Lowry and Straka had found safety – but instead he ripped a drive to the back of the green and saw the ball dance along the back of the green and roll to the hole. He lagged the first putt to the hole and Fowler conceded, which then guaranteed Fleetwood could do no worse than tie the hole.

And suddenly Europe were tripping over potential winners. Straka saw his putt to win on 18 slide past but back on 17, Spieth missed a putt and up stepped Lowry.

After a year marked with trouble with a putter more than any other club, Lowry swung the stick and had his arms raised in celebration before the ball dropped into the hole. His wild celebrations would normally be those of a man who had sunk the putt to win the Cup, but given Lowry’s enthusiasm for this competition, it’s hard to tell precisely how much he knew. His guarantee of at least a half-point came only moments after Fleetwood’s.

It was all officially over when Fowler conceded on the 17th green to Fleetwood a few minutes later, but Europe then burnished the victory: MacIntyre recovered to beat Clark 2&1 while Lowry had the honour of the final putt, squaring his match against Jordan Spieth.

A richly-deserved victory.

 

 

Written by Gavin Cooney and posted on the42.ie

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