Champion team beats team of champions

    Ryder Cup

    26
    Ryder Cup Team Europe

    GUYANCOURT, France – The great saying goes a champion team will always beat a team of champions.

    And so it appeared to be at Le Golf National as the Europeans didn’t just beat what many were calling the deepest American Ryder Cup team ever assembled … they annihilated them.

    The 17.5 – 10.5 final result was the most lopsided Ryder Cup since Europe’s 2006 win at The K Club (18.5-9.5).

    It extended the dominance for Europe on their own soil to at least 27 years and marks seven wins in the last nine Ryder Cups for Thomas Bjorn’s men.

    Every single one of the European team contributed at least a full point to the final tally.

    All 12 of them.

    That is some serious teamwork.

    On the American team, 80-time PGA TOUR winner Tiger Woods went 0-4. Phil Mickelson 0-2. And Bryson DeChambeau was 0-3.

    All three of the above were captain’s picks from Jim Furyk. With Tony Finau gaining two points, the four picks earned just that.

    From the European side, Bjorn’s four picks stood up to be counted. They combined to score 9.5 points with Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson getting three each, Poulter winning two and Casey netting 1.5.

    Because those four understood from the minute they were given the gift of a place in the team, it wasn’t about them anymore. It was about nothing but the team.

    The Americans claim to be a cohesive unit. And no doubt they are. But the stark reality is they are not as cohesive as the Europeans.

    The numbers say as much. No amount of task force meetings can cover up minor fractures in team cohesion.

    From the moment the European team formed their now infamous WhatsApp group – a group message that was as Rory McIlroy described as “just one big love-in” – the egos were left at the door.

    Garcia, in his ninth Ryder Cup, was no more or less important than Thorbjorn Olesen in his first.

    McIlroy’s stature as a four-time major champion and former FedExCup champion stacked up equally against Alex Noren this week.

    Garcia became the all-time points leader in European history at 25.5, taking over from Sir Nick Faldo but brushed it aside as just another three points towards this particular trophy.

    His real focus was on bringing the team theme to the rookies. Passing on the selfless passion he’s had for so many years in this cauldron.

    When Jon Rahm was feeling down after being 0-2 in team play, his fellow Spaniard took him aside and kept him on task.

    Rahm was slated with Woods in singles, no easy task to take on an idol. But Garcia told him how and why he would win. It proved prophetic. His contribution to that point perhaps as important as the three he gained himself.

    It was this comradery that had Italian Francesco Molinari so primed to deliver. In the past two Ryder Cups he had been part of, he had failed to win a match.

    This time around he was 5-0 and became the first European player to ever post that record in one Ryder Cup.

    “You could see on Monday when we got together, it wasn’t ending up any other way,” Molinari said.

    “I’ve been part of another two winning teams where I didn’t bring full points, and I’m glad after I’ve been carried on the shoulders by some of these guys to give something back.

    “But it’s about every one of these guys, the vice captains, it’s just the best team I’ve ever been part of by miles.”

    The Europeans made constant fun of one another – both in person or in the group text message. But as is the style of humor on this side of the pond it was all done from a place of love.

    There was no hierarchy. McIlroy pointed out before the Ryder Cup began that he was pleasantly surprised with Rahm’s contribution to the conversation.

    In other words, rookie Rahm could give as good as he could take.

    “At first I was a little bit hesitant on what to say. I didn’t want to piss off anybody, and once I realized what the tone was going to be, within 30 seconds, here we go, somebody was getting it,” Rahm admitted.

    Bjorn allowed this atmosphere to breathe.

    Justin Rose, another veteran, revealed after the victory that their skipper “didn’t fill our week with pointless team meetings” and “he trusted us to be 12 players that would come together working towards the same common goal.”

    They repaid him for that faith.

    Everything they did, they did as a team. And they enjoyed it. Even the monotonous staged team photos early in the week the Europeans turned up on time, laughing, loving every minute of it.

    On the flip side the Americans were late and appeared hardly interested.

    Seems trivial right? But it speaks to the bond the Europeans possess. All in, all together.

    The types of personalities on the American team are vast.

    A scientist in DeChambeau. A free wheeler in Bubba Watson. Mr. Nice Guys Tony Finau and Webb Simpson. Old school veterans in Woods and Mickelson. Pulseless machine-like stellar athletes Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. Young millennials like Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. And the brash and confident Reed.

    They came together as one for the most part but the cracks appeared when team pairings were not as expected in some quarters.

    The American players have a huge say in their pods and pairings – something that was born out of the task force following the 2014 loss in Scotland.

    But does this in itself open the door for the thinking to be not as team oriented as it should be?

    This was shown – most notably – when Furyk split one of the best American pairings in Ryder Cup history to disastrous results.

    Spieth and Reed had proven a huge thorn in the side of both Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup opponents, but instead Reed went out with Woods and was 0-2 with the veteran.

    Spieth preferred to be with his friend Thomas, and they combined to be 3-1, but in doing so split another proven pairing of Thomas and Fowler.

    To his credit, Furyk owned the decision and hindsight is always 20/20.

    Bjorn masterfully put Tommy Fleetwood with Molinari and the two combined to be the first European pair to go 4-0 in team play.

    Moli-Wood – as they have been affectionately called – became the darlings of the Ryder Cup.

    They were the pair who claimed the last point in the first session Friday to make it 3-1 against the USA, avoiding the sweep.

    It sparked the home team into action and they swept the afternoon before maintaining the rage.

    As awesome as they were, Bjorn once again stressed they were always team first.

    Europe had read all of the talk about the Americans before the Ryder Cup began.

    In fact they used one particular story suggesting America would dominate team golf for over a decade as extra motivation.

    Aside from that though, they didn’t care what was happening across the fairway from them.

    “The whole team has been part of this. And I think it’s very easy to sum it up: Some play five matches and some play two matches, but they all contribute,” Bjorn said.

    “We got it right this week. We worked as a team and we knew we were up against very strong opponents, but we went out on the golf course and believed in ourselves and what we stand for as a team.

    “We never, ever looked towards their team and what they were about. We were about us as a team and what we do.

    “This is the best team room I’ve ever been in. It was calm. It was determined. It was focused. It was fun. Everything that this Ryder Cup was, is what I think The Ryder Cup should be about for a European Team.”

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