SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AP) – Europe’s latest Ryder Cup sensation is called “Moliwood,” and what a show Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood produced at the Ryder Cup on Saturday.
And now for the final act.
Molinari and Fleetwood became the first European tandem to win all four matches, leading their team to the brink of regaining the Ryder Cup from an American team that had to rally just to keep the score close.
Tiger Woods hasn’t won any of his three matches.
Phil Mickelson didn’t even play.
Europe filled the board with blue in the morning, eventually winning three of the four matches in fourballs for its largest three-session lead in 14 years. It held on in foursomes, with Henrik Stenson delivering clutch putts in the only match that was close.
At the end of two days, Europe had a 10-6 lead.
The score should sound familiar.
That’s the same deficit Europe faced in 2012 at Medinah when it produced the largest comeback on foreign soil. The Americans have never made up that much ground away from home, though they were the first to win after trailing 10-6, at Brookline in 1999 when they front-loaded the Sunday lineup with their biggest stars.
And that was on the mind of European captain Thomas Bjorn, even as he was drowned out by thousands of fans using what was left of their voices to sing, “Ole, ole, ole, ole,” the European anthem for these matches that Americans have heard far too often.
“I’ve seen too many times what the singles game does,” Bjorn said. “We used a lot of energy these days. We go ahead tomorrow and focus on what’s ahead and not what’s done.”
Even so, he couldn’t contain a smile.
Europe brought five rookies to Le Golf National who sure didn’t seem like them – Alex Noren and Fleetwood were the last two French Open champions on the Albatross Course – and certainly didn’t play like them.
“We’re really, really, really happy with how it’s gone these past two days,” Bjorn said.
If not for Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, the Americans might really be in trouble. They pulled ahead in a tight fourballs match to beat Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm for the lone American point in the morning that prevented Europe from a second straight sweep of a team session. They rallied from an early deficit against Poulter and Rory McIlroy in foursomes, with both delivering key shots and big putts. With four birdies over their last five holes, they won 4 and 3.
“They had a six-point lead, and now it’s four,” Spieth said. “So we are carrying that as a little bit of momentum, I guess. Early wins tomorrow go a long way.”
Mickelson will have to shake off some rust. He hasn’t played since Friday in a foursomes loss that lasted only 14 holes. U.S. captain Jim Furyk said he would shake up the order for Saturday afternoon foursomes, and that meant keeping Lefty on the bench.
It was the second time in as many Ryder Cups in Europe that Mickelson, who holds the Ryder Cup record with 12 appearances, did not play on Saturday.
Woods played twice, and at times it looked as though he were playing by himself.
Patrick Reed went from “Captain America” to looking more like “Private Patrick,” taking himself out of holes in the fourballs session with too many shots into the gnarly rough, in the water and one out-of-bounds.
That wasn’t enough to contend against “Moliwood.” The fourballs match was all square until Molinari ran off three straight birdies. The foursomes match was never close, as Fleetwood delivered big putts to win holes, each time turning to the crowd in a crouch, dropping both arms and pumping them wildly.
They were 5 up at the turn over Woods and DeChambeau, and a brief rally only delayed the inevitable.
Most peculiar about the matches in this Ryder Cup is that only two of the 16 matches have reached the 18th hole, and each match has been won outright.
Woods has failed to win seven consecutive matches, dating to his singles victory against Molinari in Wales in 2010. Woods, coming off an inspiring victory at the Tour Championship for his first title since his litany of back surgeries, has looked flat in the Paris suburbs.
He hasn’t had much help, but he also missed key putts around the turn that allowed Europe to build a big lead.
“Everything feels pretty good,” Woods said. “Just pretty (ticked) off, the fact that I lost three matches and didn’t feel like I played poorly. That’s the frustrating thing about match play. We ran against two guys that were both playing well.”
The rest of the Europe wasn’t too shabby.
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