Europe withstood a fierce American fightback to secure the four points required to reclaim the Ryder Cup with England’s Tommy Fleetwood sealing the deal in a nerve-jangling climax on Sunday.
The Americans, attempting the biggest final-day comeback in the history of the biennial event, finally found their mojo after being outplayed and out-fought for two days at the Marco Simone course.
Hauling back a daunting five-point deficit proved beyond them, however, and Fleetwood made sure the trophy would return to Europe when his opponent Rickie Fowler conceded the 16th hole to leave the Briton two up with two to play and guaranteed a half point.
Fleetwood duly completed a 3&1 victory but the celebrations had already started as Europe extended their 30-year unbeaten home record against the Americans and avenged the record 19-9 thrashing they endured at Whistling Straits in 2021.
Although the final score was a comfortable-looking 16-1/2- 11-1/2 with the gap the same as at the start of the 12 singles, there were moments when a US win looked possible.
“It was stressful as the Americans put up a fight today so hats off to them. But I am so proud of my 12 guys,” said Europe skipper Luke Donald, whose team seized control of the 44th Ryder Cup on Friday with a 4-0 sweep of the morning foursomes.
“We started off great, which was what we needed. Then a few matches changed to red. We kept looking at the board and thinking, where will we find 14 and a half points?
“But we always had some guys at the back that looked good.”
The 32-year-old Fleetwood, who picked up three points from his four matches, had not expected to be centre of attention but was ready when his moment came.
“I’d have rather not been in that situation,” he said. “I didn’t want it to come down to one of us at the back.
“I was feeling pretty sick taking the tee shot on 16. It is never nice to watch somebody’s ball sail into the water but I still had to set up and hit a shot.
“It is an amazing feeling after an amazing pressure.”
Ultimately, the Americans paid for a woeful start in which they failed to win a match on the opening day. But they left with pride restored. “My competitive juices are flowing too much to function right now,” said American captain Zach Johnson, who was criticised for his selections. “We’ll analyse it. I’m not making excuses. Europe outplayed us.”
Donald had top-loaded his singles order to try to get the job done early with world number three Jon Rahm, number four Viktor Hovland and number two Rory McIlroy, who was involved in unsavoury scenes the night before, out in the opening four matches.
Norway’s Hovland, outstanding throughout the three days, was unstoppable as he finished off Collin Morikawa on the 15th green for a 4&3 victory which included seven birdies.
In the top match, Spain’s Masters champion Rahm and world number one Scottie Scheffler slugged out a gladiatorial contest which ended tied as Rahm left a long-distance putt stone dead to win the 18th hole after Scheffler fluffed a green-side chip.
Scheffler had been in tears the day before after a record 9&7 defeat in the foursomes alongside Brooks Koepka but rebounded with brilliant golf.
“We needed to rally around something, we were getting our butts kicked to start the day,” Scheffler told reporters.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, playing in his seventh Ryder Cup, beat dogged rookie Sam Burns 3&1 to earn his fourth point out of five this week and 18th in his Ryder Cup career.
Elsewhere, however, the Americans were painting the scoreboard red with Patrick Cantlay, whose heroics in a stormy fourballs on Saturday gave his team hope, beat Justin Rose 2&1.
With the US leading several matches the pressure was building but Englishman Tyrrell Hatton proved impervious to it, completing a 3&2 victory over British Open champion Brian Harman to leave Europe half a point from glory. But Johnson’s Americans were not finished.
Koepka beat young Swede Ludvig Aberg before Max Homa survived a tension-riddled 18th hole to hang on for a 1-up win over Matt Fitzpatrick who had the chance to deliver the half point needed only to miss an 18-foot birdie putt.
When Xander Schauffele beat Nicolai Hojgaard to make it 14-10, every shot suddenly took on huge significance.
Fowler drove his tee shot into water at the par-four 16th and when Fleetwood drove the green, Europe could breathe easy.
Fleetwood had two putts from three feet to win the hole but when Fowler did not make him finish off the 32-year-old Englishman threw his arms skywards in relief.
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