By Mitch Phillips
PARIS (Reuters) – Europe produced a barnstorming Ryder Cup comeback on Friday as they swept the foursomes in devastating style to take an overnight 5-3 lead and leave the United States dazed and bewildered after they had won the fourballs 3-1.
It was the first time Europe had won all four foursomes matches – having suffered a 4-0 reverse in the format en route to defeat in Hazeltine two years ago – and their first sweep in either format since 1989.
But it was not just the points tally that will have sent European captain Thomas Bjorn off to dinner on a high, but the crushing nature of the victories as the home team’s clean ball striking enabled them to deal much better with the strong wind that developed through the afternoon as many of the big-name Americans fell apart.
None of the foursomes matches reached the 17th green, with two finishing on the 14th, as the Europeans bounced back superbly to give their fans plenty to cheer after they had been quietened by the morning setback at Le Golf National near Paris.
Sergio Garcia and rookie Alex Noren led the way by annihilating Phil Mickelson and Bryson Dechambeau 5 and 4 and it could have been even more emphatic as they led by seven after a front-nine birdie-fest.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson resumed their highly successful partnership to hammer Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler 3 and 2 having been 5-up after 11.
Ian Poulter and Rory McIlory, who was badly off form in the morning, came from 2-down to triumph 4 and 2 over Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson as Poulter was yet again inspired to new heights by the emotion of team competition.
Rookie Tommy Fleetwood took a far more chilled approach and saw it pay off handsomely as he and Francesco Molinari, who had won Europe’s solitary fourballs point, completed the memorable day by smashing Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas 5 and 4.
“It was a tough morning for me but a great afternoon – a bit of a roller coaster ride,” said Bjorn. “Those are the emotions you go through in a Ryder Cup.
“We’ll enjoy this afternoon for a few hours, but then we will focus on tomorrow – we know it’s a marathon.”
Furyk looked shellshocked out on the course as he surveyed the giant scoreboards swathed in blue but tried to take the long view when considering the day.
“It’s eight points so the event is still pretty young,” he said. “If we had lost both sessions 2-1/2 – 1-1/2 it would have been the same result but probably a different feeling.
“The Europeans played very good golf this afternoon on a difficult setup and in difficult conditions and we didn’t play our best golf.
“When you see all that blue on the board maybe the guys tried a bit too hard, pressed a bit too hard.
“We’re not happy with 4-0 but we play for 28 points and there is plenty of time.”
The U.S., seeking a first overseas win in 25 years, had the better of a topsy-turvy fourballs session, with Spieth particularly impressive when he and Thomas beat Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton 1-up.
World number one Johnson and Fowler won 4 and 2 against McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen, while Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka came from 2-down to beat Rose and Jon Rahm on the 18th.
There was no fairytale comeback for Tiger Woods, however, as he and Patrick Reed lost 3 and 1 to Molinari and Fleetwood to take Woods’ fourball record to nine defeats from 12 games.
He then sat out the foursomes – only the second session he has missed in eight Ryder Cups.
However, Woods will be back in action again alongside Reed in a rematch with Molinari and Fleetwood on Saturday as Furyk chose to send out the same four fourball combinations for the second day running.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)