Just like in past Ryder Cups, the scene is always rather chaotic when the matches are coming down the stretch, and we (media people) are staring at the leaderboard trying to figure out which one will clinch the winning point, so we can be there to get what we need. Sunday at Le Golf National was no different. I usually let colleagues try to work out the math because if you’ve seen on Twitter this week, it’s not my strong suit — numbers have never really been my thing. However, strange to stay, but I have some experience now and you can never go wrong with the 16th or 17th greens.
And in this week’s case, the 16th green is the safer bet because you can see the 15th green and the 18th, as well. Meanwhile, the 17th goes out the other direction, so it’s a drag and a much further walk. It was the only and best bet I made all week.
It was only fitting that Francesco Molinari clinched the point for Europe to take back the Ryder Cup. Molinari, who became the first European player to win all five matches in Ryder Cup history, beat Phil Mickelson 4&2.
Despite the Cup being clinched with Phil dumping his tee shot into the drink on the par-3 and then conceding the hole and match to Molinari, it was still an incredible scene as the Italian ran into the crowd to celebrate and mobs of people descended on the 16th tee. It was dope AF. In all caps.
Perhaps not as exciting as it was at Medinah in 2012, but that didn’t bother anymore, especially not Molinari.
Q. Francesco — (Team cheering for Alan Shipnuck).
Q. I know it’s exciting to clinch The Ryder Cup, but to see a proud champion like Phil end it by hitting it in the water —
IAN POULTER: What was your quote two weeks ago?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Why are you painful now?
Q. This could be the last shot he ever hits in The Ryder Cup. He’s been doing it for a quarter century.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Obviously Phil is a class act and he fought hard all match today. Obviously probably didn’t have his A Game this week, but you know, he fought hard, and yeah, we obviously — you hope, you wish to finish The Ryder Cup holing a putt and making a birdie or stuff like that. But it happens to all of us, and I’m sure it’s not going to affect, you know, the other stuff that Phil has done in his career. He’s an amazing player, and it’s one shot, so it doesn’t change anything.
JUSTIN ROSE: Well said.
*Note: If you don’t know the origin of all the Alan Shipnuck jokes during the Euro presser, you’re missing out and it’s been like trending all week. Here’s the origin column that started the sparring.
Not to digress, but I’m going to, Rory McIlroy was in the middle of answering a question in the presser when he went on this tangent:
We’ve known each other for a long, long time and we get along well. I think collectively, we all have one question: Where is Alan Shipnuck?
(Team calling out and all raising a glass).
SERGIO GARCÍA: I don’t know how good a predictor you are
Everyone likes to assign blame to this and that, and like I’ve said all week, I find that kind of annoying even if there’s plenty to go around, but it is sometimes simple: The team that played better won. We can analyze and break it down and it’s partly our job to do that.
It’s easy to second-guess the captain’s picks, but let’s not for a second and look at the numbers and you can read into that however you want.
European Captain Thomas Bjorn’s picks:
Henrik Stenson: 3-0
Sergio Garcia: 3-1 (Shoutout to Sergio for becoming the most successful player in European Ryder Cup history with 25.5 points, overtaking Nick Faldo’s record of 25.)
Ian Poulter: 2-2
Paul Casey: 1-1-1
American Captain Jim Furyk’s picks:
Tiger Woods: 0-4
Phil Mickelson: 0-2
Bryson DeChambeau: 0-3
Tony Finau: 2-1
Europe beat the U.S. by seven points, 17.5-10.5. So, if you do the math, I guess that is a 7.5 point difference, which means the captain’s picks had a influence on the result. But Europe talks and acts as a whole, one continent, one team, etc.
Furyk responded to potential criticism about his decisions with pairings and picks.
“You know, we’re going to get second-guessed and we’re going to get questioned,” said Furyk. “I realise as a leader of this team and as a captain, the brunt of it is going to be on my plate and I accepted that when I took this role.
“You know, we came over here and played our practise rounds and prepped for this golf course, and I have — I’m going to say it over and over and over again: I have every confidence in these 12 players that you could. I think we have a great team. I would take them right back into another Ryder Cup and play it all over again if I could. You can call me crazy, but I have every belief that these guys could get it done. I still do and I still would again.”
It’s okay, Jim, we’re all a little crazy.
Strong defense of Furyk from Phil, unlike his performance at Gleneagles in 2014:
Q. You had a few words to say in Gleneagles in 2014 in this press conference. You lost by a bigger margin today. Is this better or worse?
PHIL MICKELSON: This is an awesome team and we had phenomenal leadership. We had great vice captains. And we were put as players in a position to succeed, and these guys up here are such great players; that if you put these players in a position to succeed, they most often will.
Unfortunately it didn’t happen this week. But we had a very special week here. We’ll continue to build on it, and improve in a couple of years, and this is a very meaningful, special team for me, personally, too, because our captain is one of, I think, the best people in golf, and somebody that I’ve always looked up to and cherished our friendship.
I thought that the way he brought everybody in together on decisions; I think that we — you know, some of you might question some of the decisions, but everything was done with reason, input, thought through, and then it’s up to us to execute, and we just didn’t quite — we didn’t execute.
And let’s be honest. The European side played some exquisite golf. I mean, it was some phenomenal golf, and they flat-out beat us. But they beat us on the course. I thought that this was really a special week for all of us, and we — there have been two years, this year and 2006 with Tom Lehman, where it breaks my heart a little bit more than others, because those two, we didn’t execute while we were given every opportunity to succeed.
Bjorn spoke about his picks. First, specifically about Sergio Garcia.
THOMAS BJØRN: He wasn’t a bad pick, was he.
RORY McILROY: The four picks weren’t bad (team applauding).
SERGIO GARCÍA: I promised you three. I got you three.
THOMAS BJØRN: I think Sergio’s Ryder Cup story tells its own — it’s a whole thing of its own, and it’s a brilliant story. It’s a fantastic achievement. He is very much the centre of what we do, and I’ve been saying this all the time: He walks into the room, he is right in the middle of everything.
And you know, you’ve got to have great people that look at the team from the outside, but you’ve also got to have great people from the inside, and he’s one of them. But all of these people understand each other.
All of these guys can push each other forward. But Sergio’s done amazing, and for Jon to go out in his first Ryder Cup single and beat Tiger Woods, you know, that’s a pretty cool thing that you’ll have for the rest of your life, and that’s something that he will carry in his career, knowing that on the biggest stage, against the best player that’s ever played, I can stand up and do great things.
More on his picks:
THOMAS BJØRN: Well, I’m not very good at adding up but I’m sure if I put these numbers together, they make the difference in the score. I think I got it right, and so, you know, they have been fantastic. They bring more than they do — I couldn’t have dreamt of what they brought on the golf course. They have been fantastic this week on the golf course. But in the team room, you know, they bring the experience. They bring the understanding.
It’s those guys that last night sit and make sure that everybody’s in the right frame of mind and they are ready to go out and play because they have done it so many times before. I think it takes to play in The Ryder Cup and being in a lot of team rooms and to understand what it’s all about.
Sometimes when you have some great new guys coming through where you’ve got to balance it out with experience; it worked well for us this week, it really has. When you take on the captaincy, you can never dream of a score line like this. You know it’s going to be close, but you can’t dream of a score line like this. That’s obviously down to all 12 players, but I’m extremely proud of those four guys that got picked, because it’s by no means easy to be picked.
There’s pressure on you if you’re going to be picked, and they stood up, all of them this week, and showed what they are worth. You know, from Sergio and Ian that are such the heartbeat of what we do; Henrik that brings all the calmness, and then Paul, you know, you can only say, welcome back.
An interesting question, though, is that on the surface and on a one-dimensional plane, it appeared that the Americans were the stronger team. Yes, they were — as individuals on PGA Tour venues.
I’ve brought up the sociological component and I wasn’t even the biggest fan of the sociology courses I took in college, but they were on a theoretical level. I also feel like I could and would have to do a dissertation on this topic to do it the right justice because it’s hard for to put into words or to find the right words. I wish I could just break it down to being something tangible and clear cut and hard numbers to show proof, instead of just telling you to believe me because of my intuition and knowledge I’ve attained covering golf and traveling the world, but I’d tell myself to f*k off, too.
What the hell am I talking about, anyway? The cultural component. You can see it in the pressers even on an individual level, but especially at the end of the Ryder Cup when both the losing and winning teams are forced to sit in a room and answer questions. The European pressers — win or lose — have sure been mighty entertaining and you can hear the camaraderie even when they lose (which I’ve only seen once).
Rory went so far as to even say that the Europeans were closer as teammates.
“I just think we all get along so well,” said McIlroy, who went 2-3 this Ryder Cup. “We’ve known each other for a long time and there’s a continuity in our group that maybe the other side don’t quite have, just because of the rookies coming in and the new guys, but even the rookies in our team, we’ve all known for a long time; I first played with Thorbjørn in the Egyptian Open in 2010.
“The togetherness of the team, the great camaraderie we have, that’s built up on The European Tour, and obviously we all have our separate lives going on, but once we get together for The Ryder Cup, we all come together as one. You know, it was just such a good week.”
Captain Bjorn added to the togetherness:
You know, it’s no secret we get together about this and we always have done. We went through a transition last time, and you know, in the team, and sometimes you go through that and that becomes difficult, and especially when you go away, this team was just a very, very solid team, and all of these guys that are here, they are quality golfers.
They are putting their stamp on the world scene, and there are a couple on this team that are right on the way to the top of the game over the next few years, and they will be massive parts of these European teams in the future. It’s a great group. It’s a group that believes in themselves and what they stand for, and they carry the torch on for what the European Ryder Cup teams is all about. They understand the history. They understand what we’re about, and that’s what will do them great going forward.
Pile on more love for Bjorn Supremacy:
Q. Question for Ian and Justin. You both have been around in lots of teams. Could you just identify the thing that you think Thomas did perhaps better than anything else? You’ve had a lot of captains.
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I’ve played a few now. Thomas has been extremely calm all week. He’s allowed —
THOMAS BJØRN: We took note of that.
JUSTIN ROSE: Unlike his playing career. IAN POULTER: He’s allowed us to be very relaxed and chilled in the team room, and he understands every player on a personal level and professionally, as well. So to be able to have that level of calmness in the team room, I think this week showed through. And we had an extra bit of motivation this week, as well, which —
SERGIO GARCÍA: Yes, bring it.
IAN POULTER: You might all see — I don’t know when it’s going to get done, but we had some extra motivation this week to make sure we put our hands back on that trophy, as little or big as that number is going to be; it will be a very interesting number to see.
JUSTIN ROSE: So I guess just bringing it back to slightly more serious, I think that —
SERGIO GARCÍA: What? Why?
JUSTIN ROSE: Was it a number or an image? IAN POULTER: Score. SERGIO
GARCÍA: We still have to work the initials of the players.
JUSTIN ROSE: I think they might be talking about a tat, to keep everyone in the loop.
RORY McILROY: There could be a visit to a tattoo parlour coming soon for Mr. Bjørn on his head.
JUSTIN ROSE: Plenty of real estate there. (Laughter).
I think what Thomas did and the backroom staff did for the team and what you don’t see along this line right now, you see a bunch of guys who are elated and you see a bunch of guys enjoying the situation and you see a bunch of guys having drinks to celebrate. What this team did was not drop their guard until this moment right here. This team was relentless in its pursuit of excellence. We ticked every box we could control all week long, whether it be recovery, nutrition, practise rounds. Our focus was unbelievable this week.
IAN POULTER: Here-here.
JUSTIN ROSE: Thomas didn’t fill our week with pointless team meetings. He trusted us to be 12 players that would come together, and today trusted us to be 12 individuals, like Rory said, sent a great message earlier, but 12 individuals working towards the same common goal. And that was his strength this week. And I think that we didn’t drop our guard all week long. We stayed on point as a group, and everybody, the discipline that we showed got us to this point where we can now let our hair down and now really drop our guard hard.
IAN POULTER: Thomas’s team, you don’t see, which are the ones that really help us, the backroom staff, the vice captains, the chefs, the nutritionalists, team physios. The list goes on, and you only see 12 of us sitting here right now, five vices, the wives, the caddies, we can go on and on. But Thomas has pulled his team together and I’m not including us 12 as a team, but the entire team behind the scenes to make all this work, and that’s what’s been very, very impressive.
The Europeans managed to put on an entertaining losing presser two years ago even though they were upset, but they were drunk at least. You see, the Americans need to drink more, and holy shit, Tiger looked so spent during the presser — it looked like he was about to dose off a few times… I’m not implying anything.
This time around, the Americans seemed more butt-heart than usual. I guess this loss feels really tough right now — perhaps because they came in as such heavy favorites, despite not having won the Ryder Cup on foreign soil in 25 years.
One last thing… TO BE CONTINUED