Ryder Cup 2018: history shows us this isn’t over yet, says Europe captain Thomas Bjorn ahead of final day
Dane urges his team to look back on the close shaves of yesteryear as motivation to finish the job in Paris
European captain Thomas Bjorn called on his side to look back down the years as motivation to raise themselves for one last day despite taking a 10-6 lead over the United States in the Ryder Cup.
The Americans need to equal the record for the largest-ever Ryder Cup comeback to lift the trophy and win on foreign soil for the first time since 1993.
The hosts’ dominant play at Le Golf National since falling 3-0 behind on the opening morning has seen them move to the brink of a sixth straight home win in golf’s greatest spectacle.
But a four-point deficit heading into Sunday’s singles is not insurmountable, as shown by the USA’s victory from 10-6 down at the ‘Battle of Brookline’ in 1999, and the European ‘Miracle at Medinah’ six years ago.
Europe also only managed to hold on by a single point at Valderrama in 1997 on Bjorn’s Ryder Cup debut, despite taking a five-point lead on Saturday.
“You keep reminding yourself that we had a big lead at Valderrama, we had a big lead at Brookline, and at Valderrama, we won, but only just,” said Bjorn.
“At Brookline we lost. At Medinah we were a long way behind and we turned it around.
“History will show me and everybody on that team that this is not over. That’s what it’s all about.
“You go full bore tomorrow. Get out there and do all the right things, and this is not over till you’ve got the points on the board.”
Rory McIlroy, who has won two from four outings so far, will open the singles clashes against Justin Thomas, who has taken half of the US points with good friend Jordan Spieth.
The pairing of English rookie Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari has yielded four points from four matches for Europe, including three straight wins over the in-form Tiger Woods.
The ‘Moliwood’ duo are the only European pair in history to claim four victories from as many matches, paving the way for their team’s dominant position.
“There’s not much you can say about it,” said Bjorn. “It’s a remarkable performance, and that pairing came out of long conversations with the two of them, and a relationship they built with each other over a long time.”
Molinari, who had never won a match in his two previous Ryder Cup appearances in 2010 and 2012, has been especially impressive after a fantastic year that saw him become the first Italian major champion in history at the British Open.
He has also totally turned around his rivalry with the 14-time major winner in 2018, having avenged his singles loss at Celtic Manor with the three wins alongside Fleetwood, after also lifting the Claret Jug in July when playing partner Woods had led with eight holes remaining.
“Francesco, it’s like he’s leaning on golf shots and they land about three feet from the hole,” smiled Dane Bjorn.
“I don’t know what planet he lives on, but it’s not the one that the rest of the players live on, that’s for sure. He’s been phenomenal these two days.”
Woods is out in the fourth match against charismatic rookie Jon Rahm, while Phil Mickelson will play only his second game of the week when faces Molinari.
The five-time major champion received a captain’s pick from US skipper Jim Furyk despite being out of form in recent months, and was erratic in Friday’s foursomes before being left out totally on Saturday.
“Phil is, as you mentioned, a really good friend,” said former US Open winner Furyk.
“He fully understood the role that he had today.
“He said he would be ready tomorrow, and I put him in a position where I hope that our guys get off to a fast start and put him in that position.”
Furyk may sound bullish, but Europe will be confident of preventing the US avenging Medinah with a ‘Payback in Paris’.