The Ryder Cup will reside in Europe for another two years after Thomas Bjorn’s team scored a comprehensive 17.5-10.5 triumph over the USA at Le Golf National on the last Sunday in September. It is the 11th time Europe has won the Ryder Cup in this iteration of the event since 1979 when the GB and Ireland team broadened to include the European continent. The USA have won eight times in that period with one tie giving Europe the Cup in 1989.
This week’s winners were Lucas Bjerregaard in Scotland, Kevin Tway in California and the home side Team Korea won the LPGA’s UL International Crown team event in Incheon.
From the moment American Tony Finau nearly hit the opening shot of the tournament into the water the 2018 Ryder Cup was always going to be an enthralling, if not a close, contest.
A dramatic 4-0 in the Friday afternoon foursomes (alternate shot) in Europe’s favour gave them a 5-3 lead after day one and they finished Saturday ahead 10-6 before Phil Mickelson conceded from the tee box on 16 after sticking his tee shot into the water in his singles match-up with Italian Francesco Molinari. It was left to Alex Noren to cap the victory with a monster putt to win his match against Bryson DeChambeau and confirm the seven-point margin – the biggest since Europe won in Wales 18.5-9.5 in 2006.
The individual storylines for Europe were Tommy Fleetwood and British Open winner Molinari with a 5-0 record for the latter after they won all four of their team matches before Molinari beat Mickelson but Fleetwood fell to Finau on Sunday. A resurgent Sergio Garcia nabbed three points as did Henrik Stenson with rookie Noren, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose winning two matches.
Justin Thomas topped the Americans with four points with Jordan Spieth (whom Thomas started playing with on day one) on three and only Webb Simpson and rookie Finau getting two wins.
America imploded from the post-match press conference onwards with a litany of complaints and issues to deal with:
- Patrick Reed went straight to the New York Times to critique the team selection and throw Jordan Spieth under the bus.
- Phil Mickelson waited almost a week to bag the venue.
- Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson had to deny rumours of a recent dust-up.
- And Koepka has had to deal with the fact one of his errant tee shots has blinded a spectator.
After the Ryder Cup several of the key European and USA players headed to Scotland for the multi-course Dunhill Links event which saw Lucas Bjerregaard claim his second stroke-play European Tour title after Ryder Cupper Tyrell Hatton squandered a four-shot overnight lead. Hatton’s string of four bogeys on the back nine saw Bjerregaard’s 15 under enough to edge home over Hatton and fellow Ryder Cup hero Tommy Fleetwood. The final round was played via a shotgun start due to predicted high winds which saw players start from various holes on the final round making the leaderboard more of a moving feast as the final round concluded rapidly.
The Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon wild weather disrupted the UL International Crown before the home side triumphed. Typhoon Kong-Rey ruled out action on Saturday and Team Korea won five of the eight singles game to win with a total of 15 points four clear of England and the USA, who were the defending champions. Interestingly world number one Sung Hyun Park lost but IK Kim, In Gee Chun picked up wins as So Yeong Ryu split the points with American Lexi Thompson.
The PGA Tour’s new season came down to a three-person playoff as American Kevin Tway joined his father Bob Tway as a Tour winner beating Brandt Snedeker then Ryan Moore at the Silverado Resort and Spa course in Napa Valley. Tway’s eventual Californian triumph came after he closed with five consecutive birdies (three in the playoff) after Snedeker led by four strokes with nine holes to play.
Player performance notes
Well off the mark in Paris, except for our comments about Europe, this week we return to stroke-play events with the British Masters at Walton Heath near London. The Surrey venue is a regular stop for many of this week’s players but only given it’s status as a venue for sectional qualifying for the US Open. Paul Dunne won the tournament last year at Close House in Newcastle.
20 to 50: Matt Fitzpatrick. Despite missing the cut last week Fitzpatrick won the European Masters before he watched the Ryder Cup from the sidelines. The world number 29 has won this tournament in 2015, albeit at the different venue, but did so having missed the cut the weekend prior.
20 to 50: Matt Wallace. The three-time winner this year qualified for the US Open at this venue in 2018 so knows how to play it well and the 28-year-old is in career-best form this year
20 to 50: Ryan Fox. The Kiwi has done well on links venues in the last 18 months (including a T5 in US Open qualifying here) and as far as the south of England is concerned this is probably it’s most renowned course which has the traits of links venues. Fox was T24 last week in Scotland.
50 to 100: Tom Lewis. The recent Portugal Masters winner was T7 here earlier this year in US Open qualifying. Since then has won twice and risen from 434 to 103 in the world rankings in that four-month period.
Greens in regulation
The value of the home course experience was highlighted in the Ryder Cup as the last two winners of the French Open on the same venue (Noren and Fleetwood) performed exceedingly well as did recent place-getter Molinari. Thomas was also T8 this year but, he is not the best performed America at the venue in the last four years three players have top six or better finishes in that time. They are Brendan Steele, Julian Suri and Peter Uihlein. That trio were all ranked around the 60s/70s when the wildcards were confirmed but likely well out of contention but maybe the Americans have learnt something for the next time around in Europe which will be in Italy in 2022.
The best idea might have come from the irreverent No Laying Up crew, as the co-hosts riffed on the demise of the Americans on the wrap-up podcast (or maybe it was the livestream.) One suggestion floated which has merit is the Americans expanding the amount of wildcards to six which could be linked to staging playoff a few months before the Ryder Cup at the venue in Europe. This would require two significant concessions though 1) the European Tour would have to approve them to use the venue to do so and 2) it would mean a PGA event giving up star power or taking a year off. The latter might immediately make the idea a non-starter but the Americans should try something as their current approach to pods, team-mates who want to play together as opposed to who works best together won’t see them win the Ryder Cup in Europe anytime soon.
In addition to the British Masters this week we head to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on the PGA Tour for the CIMB Classic which sees Pat Perez return to defend his title and the LPGA stays in the Korean city of Incheon for the Hana Bank Championship at the Sky 72 Golf Club Ocean Course won by Jin Young Ko.
The Australasian PGA Tour resumes at Cape Schanck with the Victorian PGA Championship won last year by Damien Jordan.
Images via golfaustralia.com.au and golfdigest.com