Cheltenham’s Casey comes good
Cheltenham born Paul Casey was an important wildcard selection this year. The four selected came in as the most successful wildcard selections in Ryder Cup history with 9.5 points. The previous best was 6.5 by the USA selections back in 2014. Although Casey brought the lowest total of 1.5 points to the 9.5; it was the timing of his points that mattered the most. His half against Brooks Koekpa in the second singles match yesterday was pivotal as the USA looked to gain momentum and mount a potential comeback.
The fourball pairing of Casey and Tyrrell Hatton secured their point in their Saturday morning match against Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson. They played their way around Le Golf National securing 11 birdies between them – with Casey barely able to speak to the Sky cameras following that victory.
It had been 10 years since Casey last featured in the Ryder Cup with him agreeing to move back to play on the European Tour earlier this year in order to increase his chances of featuring in Paris.
Having been one of the most consistent players during this season, Casey has secured 12 top 20 placed finishes while also winning the Valspar Championship. Clearly it isn’t a surprise he has been successful for this year’s Ryder Cup team.
Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood, Europe’s rock-star duo that pulled off a feat for the ages by dismantling Tiger Woods on three separate occasions in two days.
The first European pairing to win all four of their matches in one contest, they started on the front foot on Friday with a 3&1 victory over Woods and Patrick Reed in the morning, before another stunning 5&4 success over American Hollywood pairing Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.
On Saturday, Woods and Reed were again rolled over 4&3, then American captain Jim Furyk swapped out Reed for loudmouth Bryson DeChambeau but they again came off on the wrong side of a 5&4 defeat.
Somewhat fittingly, Molinari made it five points from five when securing the Ryder Cup with a 4&2 victory over tournament stalwart Phil Mickleson. Fleetwood ran out of steam on his debut, succumbing to Tony Finau 6&4, but team ‘MolliWood’ wrote themselves into the history books with some sublime golf in Paris.
The Englishman said after the tournament: “It’s all well and good coming to a Ryder Cup, but the goal is to win it.
“I’ve spent time in a bubble this weekend with Ryder Cup legends and it couldn’t have gone any better. This is it. This is as good as it gets really.
“Francesco Molinari is unbelievable. He’s gone five zero in the Ryder Cup and I’m not sure that’s ever been done before. That guy is one good golfer and he deserves all the credit he gets. It was fitting that he got the winning shot as well.”
Europe make home advantage count
A lot has been said around the setup of Le Golf National this week, clearly from the result it favoured the European side. But what exactly was it that aided the European side so well?
There have been two main points talked about all week: number one being the greens, the second being the rough.
A comparison can be easily formed between Le Golf National and Hazeltine, the Americans 2016 host course. The two have a difference of only 445 yards but are worlds apart in their setup. European captain Thomas Bjorn was deliberate in his plan to keep the rough from being trampled by the 270,000 spectators Le Golf saw. Moving the spectators 25 yards further back led to punishing rough, which if entered, almost always saw a loss of hole.
Hazeltine is typical in its setup as an American PGA course with thin-wispy rough that can be easily exited and therefore allowing for no penalty for accuracy. The USA team could pull driver on more holes and go purely for distance, a skill which the stats show the American team is better at. Ryder Cup players from both sides in the top 70 of average driving distances on the PGA Tour; of that the European players take up six of the places while the home-grown players of the USA take up 10. However, Bjorn knew his team were statistically better at driving accuracy and this was a key factor in the Europeans winning this year’s Ryder Cup.
It was the also the greens that played a factor – with them being slower than their American counterparts. ‘Stimping’ at 10.5 this week, Le Golf National was 2.5 slower than its average American counterpart on the PGA Tour. This was an important factor for American players who are used to ‘dying’ the ball into the hole due to increased run out if a miss takes place on the PGA Tour.
When it was announced in 2015 that the BBC was about to say goodbye to the Open Championship after 60 years on free-to-view television, very few could doubt that SKY was now the ‘Home of Golf.’
All the best commentators, pundits and analysts flocked to the station to provide subscribers the best coverage possible of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the four Majors and of course, the Ryder Cup.
And while the commentators, especially Andrew Coltart and Paul McGinley, kept the watching audience entertained throughout with humour, knowledge and expert opinion, the coverage, and more so what match was chosen to be streamed, left less to be desired.
In the morning session on Friday, few could argue that the most captivating contest was that of Cheltenham’s Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. The Americans were one up heading to the 18th green yet viewers were instead treated to a wonderfully timed advertisement break.
Then, when the cameras returned to Le Golf National, viewers were sent back to the 15th hole as Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood were closing out a victory over Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed
There was more evidence of mistiming on the final day as Tyrrell Hatton, albeit one of the later Europeans to tee off, was barely shown and neither was Thorbjorn Olesen, who dismantled Jordan Spieth 5&4.
To try and cover everything in Paris was always going to be a monumental task and unfortunately, while excellent for the most part, SKY failed ever so slightly in some respects.
Wildcards a crucial factor
When Ryder Cup captains Thomas Bjorn and Jim Furyk announced their wildcard selections, there was a contrasting ambience at the respective press conferences.
American picks Tony Finau, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson and Bryson DeChambeau were generally expected to be selected.
For Europe, the selection of Sergio Garcia, who has been out of form all year, came as a surprise for some, and Henrik Stenson hadn’t been playing his best golf either.
Cheltenham’s Paul Casey had worked hard to get selected and deserved his inclusion, while it would take a brave European captain to leave out Ian Poulter.
Yet when those eight names stepped out to tee off, there was no doubt which team performed to their potential at Le Golf National.
Finau took two of his three points but that was about as good as it got for the Americans. Phil Mickleson looked like he’d never picked up a club before and kept his unwanted record of losses in Ryder Cup matches, now up to 22, and Woods couldn’t muster up the form that saw him take his first top spot in over five years last weekend.
DeChambeau talked the talk but couldn’t walk the walk, also drawing a blank from his three matches, as Europe won the tournament by a clear seven points.
Ryder Cup cheerleader Poulter took as many points on his own as the entire American wildcards could get combined, Casey and Stenson played their part with crucial victories, and Garcia became the most decorated player in the tournament’s history when surpassing Sir Nick Faldo’s record of 25 Ryder Cup points.
Wildcards are always important to the outcome of any Ryder Cup and Bjorn certainly called it right when selecting experience to go with the rookies already qualified through merit.