By Martyn Herman
PARIS, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Italian Francesco Molinari fired himself into the Ryder Cup record books as his 4&2 defeat of Phil Mickelson rubber-stamped Europe’s victory over the United States on Sunday.
On an electrifying afternoon at Le Golf National south west of Paris, Molinari was his usual rock steady self as he completed a comfortable victory in bizarre circumstances on the 16th tee.
After his tee shot had safely found the green, Mickelson’s went in the water and the American immediately conceded — sparking scenes of complete delirium.
It meant Molinari became the only European player to score maximum five points in one Ryder Cup. American Larry Nelson also did it in 1979.
Molinari’s incredible weekend came just over two months after the 35-year-old became the first Italian player to win a major with his triumph at the British Open in Carnoustie.
“It means so much more than majors, more than anything,” Molinari, struggling to make himself heard in the din, said as he was swamped by yellow and blue clad fans.
“I couldn’t even dream of a summer like this. After the Open, obviously psychologically there was a lull, but the main thing in mind was always this week. I’m glad I showed up prepared and did the job.”
Europe’s victory was already assured even before five-times major champion Mickelson offered his hand with Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson assured of at least halves.
But there was no man more deserving of the winning moment than Molinari with his win moving Europe’s total on the huge scoreboards around the course to the magic 14.5 required to claim the back the trophy they lost at Hazeltine in 2016.
Molinari also featured in the 2010 and 2012 triumphs but his joy then was tempered by not winning a match.
“Statistically, hopefully I was going to get some points this time,” he said. “I’ve been kind of carried by the other guys the other two times I was on the winning side.”
Molinari also paid tribute to his rookie Tommy Fleetwood with whom he won all four matches in fourballs and foursomes, three of them against 14-times major champion Tiger Woods.
They are the first European twosome to sweep all four pairs matches they played.
“Obviously, I had an amazing partner in Tommy. Never felt like I had a rookie playing alongside me,” Molinari said.
“It’s been amazing, and today it was just hard to get the energy. It’s been a long week, playing five matches, but you know, again, I stepped it up when I had to.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman, Editing by Ed Osmond)