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Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Molinari-inspired Europe crush the United States to regain Ryder Cup

Americans favourites for 2020 match

Alex Noren of Europe celebrates with team mates, Thorbjorn Olesen, Tyrrell Hatton and Francesco Molinari
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Europe cruised to a 17.5-10-5 Ryder Cup victory over the United States at Le Golf National, Paris, winning the Sunday singles by a three-point margin to destroy the odds-on pre-tournament favourites.

Thomas Bjorn's team could be backed at 6-4 before the off, and were odds-against with every bookmaker, but they lost only one of the five sessions and never looked in any trouble from Friday afternoon onwards.

The United States have been chalked up as 8-11 favourites by bet365 for the next match at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin in 2020, with Europe 11-8 outsiders. But Bjorn's boys will not be fretting about that – the Dane led a side bursting with spirit and determination to regain the cup in magnificent fashion.

Francesco Molinari was the star of the show, the Open champion ending up as the only player in the competition with a five-point haul. The Italian maestro partnered Tommy Fleetwood to four points in the pairs play, then added another with a 4&2 victory over Phil Mickelson. Fleetwood lost 6&4 to Tony Finau.

Molinari was a 22-1 chance for top combined points scorer on Ryder Cup eve, and a best-priced 10-1 for top European honours.

Justin Thomas top-scored for the Americans with four points. The world number four won three points in tandem with Jordan Spieth over the first two days, then edged Rory McIlroy in a tight singles contest to add a fourth. Spieth's miserable record in singles combat for his country continued with a defeat to Thorbjorn Olesen, leaving Thomas clear as the most productive US raider.

Thomas had been a 7-1 poke for top American, while the 17.5-10.5 correct score could have been backed at 35-1 ante-post.

The United States, general 10-11 favourites before the first ball was struck, won the opening session of the event 3-1, but Europe fought back with a 4-0 foursomes success to end day one 5-3 in front.

Bjorn's men forged forward in the day-two fourballs, going four points clear, then a 2-2 foursomes draw meant the home side took a 10-6 lead into the Sunday singles.

McIlroy was two up through seven holes of the first singles, but the Northern Irishman suffered a cold putter and was unable to see off Thomas. McIlroy pushed his drive at the final hole into a fairway bunker, was unable to move it far from a plugged lie, then slapped his third into a water hazard. Thomas won one up and the States moved within three points.

The deficit was eroded further by singles victories for Webb Simpson, who upset Justin Rose, Finau's thrashing of Fleetwood, and a half for Brooks Koepka against Paul Casey. Europe were in control of later matches, though, and were never in serious strife.

The end neared for the United States when Jon Rahm defeated Tiger Woods with a birdie on the 17th hole, the Spaniard erupting with euphoria as he sent an out-of-sorts Woods packing. Tiger had gone from hero to zero in the space of a week – his Tour Championship triumph immediately followed by a joyless Ryder Cup in which he failed to register even half a point.

Ian Poulter birdied the 18th with a typically awesome Ryder Cup effort, enough to defeat Dustin Johnson, and Olesen breezed past Spieth.

The winning point was secured, fittingly, by Molinari, who won his singles when Phil Mickelson fired his ball into water off the 16th tee, the American immediately conceding. Europe had reached the 14.5 points they needed to regain the cup.

From there, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren made the scoreline even more impressive, while Patrick Reed scored a late consolation for the States.

The early Ryder Cup money was for the United States, but punters switched to Europe the day before the competition started, then stayed loyal to the home side in-play.

Bet365’s Steve Freeth said: “Punters stuck with Europe, despite the slow start on Friday, when they drifted to 13-5 after the morning fourballs. And just like the United States, we struggled to get our noses in front after that.”


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Francesco Molinari was the star of the show, the Open champion ending up as the only player in the competition with a five-point haul
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