PARIS (Reuters) - Italian Francesco Molinari fittingly took the glory as Europe regained the Ryder Cup from the United States in dominant style on Sunday, but it was a complete team effort that delivered what turned out to be a crushing 17.5-10.5 victory.
With Molinari safely on the 16th green, Phil Mickelson conceded their singles match after firing his tee shot into the water, taking Europe to the magical 14.5 mark they needed to win the Cup for the fourth time in the last five.
It completed a magical year for Molinari, the British Open champion, who became the first European to win all five matches in a week — having not won any of his previous six.
Europe were effectively assured of victory when the Italian teed off as he, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia were all dormie and guaranteed at least half a point - with Europe needing just one more.
All three went on to secure wins and Swedish rookie Alex Noren completed the day’s action in style when he sunk a 40-foot putt to beat Bryson Dechambeau on the last and complete a 7.5-4.5 singles victory for Europe.
It seemed a long time since the United States won Friday’s opening morning fourballs 3-1 but, after Europe roared back to sweep the foursomes 4-0 in the afternoon, they never looked back.
“How do you sum that up?,” European captain Thomas Bjorn said. “I just cannot describe how I feel about these 12. They have been amazing from day one and it was easy for me to guide them.
“It doesn’t happen very often that everybody on the team scores points and so I think we got it right this week - we worked as a team.”
The Europeans, playing in France for the first time, had started the day 10-6 up needing to secure four and a half of the 12 points available to win back the trophy and extend their stranglehold on home soil dating back to 1993.
Only twice before had a team come from four down going into the singles to win — the U.S. at Brookline in 1999 and Europe in 2012 at Medinah but another stunning comeback never really looked on the cards.
Justin Thomas, who was the top American performer with four points, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau gave Jim Furyk’s team a glimmer of hope with early wins but then the European points started pouring in.
Thorbjorn Olesen hammered Jordan Spieth and fellow rookie Jon Rahm beat Tiger Woods — leaving the weary-looking 14-times major champion with a stunning four defeats out of four.
Ian Poulter, “Mr Ryder Cup”, then got to smash his fist against the European crest on his chest one more time as world number one Dustin Johnson conceded on the 18th green.
The three dormie games meant victory was secure but Ryder Cup tradition demands a man who delivers the winning point and nobody has delivered this week like Molinari, whose mesmerizing consistency was perfectly suited to a course designed to offer maximum punishment for the wayward.
“This means more than majors, more than anything, I couldn’t even dream of a summer like this,” said Molinari, who won all his four pairs matches with Tommy Fleetwood in another European first.
“I’ve been carried the other guys the other two times I was on the winning side and it was about time to help them.”
Moments later Garcia beat Rickie Fowler 2&1 to become the competition’s all-time leading scorer, his three points taking his career tally to 25.5 to overhaul Nick Faldo and fully justify Bjorn’s decision to select him as a wildcard.
“I don’t usually cry but what a week,” said the Spaniard.
Stenson duly handed Bubba Watson his fourth defeat in four singles matches before Noren added the icing with the last shot of the week.
“They outplayed us,” said U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who has cut a dignified figure through difficult times for his team which included nine major champions.
“We got some momentum but the Europeans responded well as they have all week,” he said. “It’s a course they know pretty well but they did a great job playing it. They hit key shots and knocked in the clutch putts.
“But you could not ever have a better venue or better crowd to play in front of - it’s been a wonderful week.”
Four years ago after defeat in Gleneagles Mickelson was hugely critical of captain Tom Watson but he had nothing but praise for Furyk.
“We had phenomenal leadership - they put us players in a position to succeed but unfortunately it didn’t happen,” said the 48-year-old Mickelson, the five-times major champion who lost both his matches this week.
“The European side played some exquisite golf and flat-out beat us - but they beat us on the course.”
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond