By Simon Lewis
Brookline and Medinah loomed large in the minds of 2018 captains Thomas Bjorn and Jim Furyk on Saturday night as they considered the 10-6 lead Europe hold over the United States going into Sunday’s singles session at Le Golf National.
That was the cushion Mark James’s 1999 Europeans enjoyed at Brookline and Davis Love III’s Americans slept on in 2012 in Chicago only to see their transatlantic rivals turn the tables on the last day to stage extraordinary fightbacks and record famous victories.
It is Bjorn’s Europe who hold the advantage in Paris and the Dane will ensure there is absolutely no complacency in his team room before they stride out to secure the 4.5 points required to regain the Ryder Cup.
“You keep reminding yourself that we had a big lead at Valderrama (in 1997); we had a big lead at Brookline, and at Valderrama, we won, but only just,” Bjorn said on Saturday night. “At Brookline we lost. At Medinah we were a long way behind and we turned it around.
“So 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.”
Having trailed 3-1 to the USA after Friday morning’s opening fourballs session, Europe engineered an awesome turnaround, sweeping the four afternoon foursomes and winning Saturday’s fourballs 3-1 to open an 8-4 lead. It was a margin maintained in a tied foursomes session on Saturday afternoon and Bjorn was asked if at any point had found himself getting greedy about the advantageous position his team was in.
“Greedy? No. I will never, ever get greedy against an American side in The Ryder Cup,” Bjorn said.
“We have a goal, and that is to try to win this trophy, and that's where the focus stays. I've said all along, I focus on the 12 players that is in our side, but we are so well aware of what's standing across on the other side. Very capable and you know, the greatest players in the world. We have to regroup and we look to tomorrow, and I would never get ahead of myself in this.”
US captain Furyk was recalling his experiences as a player at both Brookline and Medinah and he said of the latter: “It sure sucked being on the other side, I will say that.
“That was one of the worst days of my career. I remember it probably even better (than Brookline), to be honest with you.
“The feeling of the momentum switching; the feeling of hearing the European crowd, and knowing, looking up on the board and seeing blue, it's a tough feeling to stomach. It reminded me very much of '99, and unfortunately I lost the 17th and 18th hole to Sergio (Garcia), and my match was one of the key ones. I remember it very well. It's probably in my list of top three worst nightmares in golf. So I remember it very, very vividly and very clearly.
“Yeah, I learned a lot from that experience, absolutely, just as much in 2012 as I did in 1999.”
Furyk will send out "a little sparkplug" in world number four Justin Thomas at the top of his singles order on Sunday, the draw throwing him together with Europe’s Rory McIlroy in an opening match that is sure to light the blue touchpaper at Le Golf National.
“We want to get out to a fast start tomorrow,” Furyk said. “That's key. It's imperative. “Everyone knows it. Any time a team's come back, now twice in this event, from four points, it's been a fast start and a solid middle to late part of the line-up.
“I don't know if there is any one match more important than the other. You've got 12 of them out there, and we have to win eight points tomorrow to take the Cup back home. So we have 12 important matches tomorrow, but you'd like to get off to that fast start like you saw at Brookline, like you saw at Medinah, and when that momentum gets going one way, it puts a lot of pressure on those middle matches. We set up our line-up accordingly and put the guys out in the fashion that we felt like, you know, we're trying to make some magic tomorrow.
“To this point, Saturday night, we've played 16 matches. We've been outplayed. I don't think there's a guy in my team room would argue with me. Right now, they have played better golf, and we have to be able to do just that tomorrow. We have to go out there and start out hot, put a little pressure on them, and we have to be the better team tomorrow. There's no other bones about it.”