Francesco Molinari clinches Ryder Cup glory for dominant Europe over USA

Europe team captain Thomas Bjorn is surrounded by his team as they pose with the trophy after the European team won the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris. (AP)
Updated 30 September 2018

Francesco Molinari clinches Ryder Cup glory for dominant Europe over USA

PARIS: 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 7.5-5.5 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 US 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.

AMAZING SCENES
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 mesmerising 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, around an hour later, Noren added the icing with the last shot of the week.
“They outplayed us,” said US captain Jim Furyk, who has cut a sporting and dignified figure through difficult times.
“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 Mickelson, who lost both his matches.
“The European side played some exquisite golf and flat-out beat us — but they beat us on the course.”


Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

Updated 28 January 2020

Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

  • Barty aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open
  • She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major

MELBOURNE, Australia: Top-ranked Ash Barty is a step closer to ending a long drought for Aussies at the national championship.
Barty saved set points in the 11th game and another in the tiebreaker before seizing the momentum against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a 7-6 (6), 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena. She next faces No. 14 Sofia Kenin, who reached the semifinals at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 78-ranked Ons Jabeur.
Barty fended off eight of the nine break-point chances she faced in the first set before finally getting the upper hand when she won a 22-shot rally, defending for much of it just to stay in the point, at 3-2 in the tiebreaker.
After clinching the first set in 69 minutes, she went on a roll to take a 4-0 lead in the second and take all the momentum away from Kvitova, who beat Barty here at the same stage last year before losing the final to Naomi Osaka.
Barty rebounded from that to win her first major title at the French Open, where she beat Kenin in the fourth round. Until she arrived in Australia, Kenin’s run at Roland Garros — which included a third-round upset over Serena Williams — was her best at a Grand Slam.
There’s a lot of local expectation riding on Barty, who is aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open. The first major of the decade may see the end of the 42-year wait, and an Australian man hasn’t won since 1976. Barty is already the first Australian woman since 1984 to reach the semifinals of the home Open.
Barty doesn’t expect to feel the pressure. She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major.
“I’m not going to have anything but a smile on my face when I walk out onto this court,” Barty said of her next match.
Kenin and Jabeur were both into the quarterfinals for the first time at a major.
For Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in Florida, the degree of difficulty will only increase.
“I’m in the semis,” she said, when asked for her preference of semifinal rival. “Anyone I play, they’re playing really well.”
Kenin is playing her best tennis, too. Her best previous run at Melbourne Park ended in the second round, when she lost to Simona Halep last year.
She finished last year ranked 14th, and could match Barty in one category: they were tied for most hard-court wins on the women’s tour last year with 38 wins each.
Kenin’s run here included a comeback win in the third round against 15-year-old Coco Gauff, when she made only nine unforced errors across the second and third sets.
In the second set against Jabeur, she saved three break points in a long sixth game, then broke serve in the seventh game to set up the win.
“It was a tough moment,” Kenin said. “I didn’t know it was 10 minutes (but) it was pretty long, the game. After that I got my momentum.”
Jabeur, a 25-year-old Tunisian, was the first Arab woman to make it to the last eight at a major.
“Ï think I proved that I can be in the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam, even if I have a lot of things to improve probably physically and mentally,” she said. “But I’m happy that I pushed through a lot of things. I proved to myself that I could do a lot of great things.”
In later men’s quarterfinals, 20-time major winner Roger Federer was playing 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren, and seven-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic had a night match against Milos Raonic of Canada.