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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Europe 'wanted this desperately', says Thomas Bjorn after Ryder Cup victory

Dane has captained Europe with aplomb, setting up his side to withstand stresses and strains that accompany what has easily become one of sport’s elite events

Francesco Molinari clinched it — the British Open champion, the current No 1 in the Race to Dubai, the man who slayed the United States with five points from five matches.

Phil Mickelson dunked his tee shot into the water at the 16th and his match against the Italian sunk, so too the United States’ chances of keeping the Ryder Cup.

Molinari’s 4&2 victory lifted Europe to the magical 14.5 mark, despite four matches still out on the course. Already, Paul Casey had secured a half against Brooks Kopeka, the third match of the day the first to add to Europe’s 10 points from overnight.

Somewhere close by at Le Golf National, Thorbjorn Olesen crushed "Golden Child" Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm, another rookie, took down the illustrious Tiger Woods.

Moments before Molinari, Ian Poulter defeated world No 1 Dustin Johnson on the final hole, the "Postman" delivering once again. Not long after, Sergio Garcia saw off Rickie Fowler to become the highest point-scorer in European Ryder Cup history.

Thomas Bjorn’s winning wildcard picks soon swelled to three, when Henrik Stenson signed off on a comfortable win against Bubba Watson.

Although defeated for the one and only time this week, Tommy Fleetwood was drowned by the crowd and then emerged to be given the bumps. Rory McIlroy had gone out first and lost to Justin Thomas, but he was there at the end to join in the reverie in France. Facing the giant grandstand, he led the fans in a celebratory Thunderclap.

By the time Sunday Singles had concluded, Alex Noren’s monster putt on the last to defeat Bryson DeChambeau provided Europe a 17.5-10.5 victory. The trophy relinquished in Hazeltine two years ago was back on European soil, a ninth win from the past 12 biennial battles secured in resounding fashion.

The US, the best statistically to contend the cup, triumphed in only four matches on Sunday. Ultimately, they were done.

Asked what it meant, and as fans threatened to swallow him up around the 16th, Molinari somehow gathered himself to say: “So much, so much.

"More than majors, more than anything. They had the strongest team ever, but we were just so good, so good. It’s unreal. It’s been the best team I’ve ever been a part of.”

Surely Thomas Bjorn would agree.

The Dane had captained Europe with aplomb, setting up his side to withstand the stresses and the strains that accompany what has easily become one of sport’s elite events.

“This has been easy,” he said, amid the celebrations, referencing his leadership. “They’ve been amazing. They were determined and set out to do a job by themselves. They wanted this desperately and they did it. It’s all down to 12 players, no one else.”

Up against it from the off on Sunday, the US couldn’t muster another miracle. Four points down going into the singles, they needed to emulate Europe’s incredible charge at Medinah six years ago to ensure the cup came back across the Atlantic.

But after threatening when Thomas added to the tally and Tony Finau beat Fleetwood emphatically, too many were found wanting.

Woods’ woeful week was confirmed with a fourth defeat from four matches. Mickelson’s miserable Ryder Cup record was reinforced with the water-ball on 16, his 22nd loss in the competition now an all-time low. It will most propably be his final appearance in a playing capacity.

So, Jim Furyk’s US came up well short, America’s wait for win in Europe extending beyond a quarter-of-a-century. In contrast, Molinari and his 11 mates were the toast of the town.