While assessing Europe’s dramatic performance in the Ryder Cup yesterday for today’s article, I was conscious of a number of factors;
1. The morning and afternoon European pairing selections
2. The performance of the individual players as a pairing and to their team environment
3. The performance of the team as a whole
4. What the scoreline suggests going forward.
Quite frankly I couldn’t understand many of the morning selections yesterday from a European Team perspective. There seemed no balance and little proven strength in the selections, given that the European team were playing on home turf and momentum was all important. In my opinion apart from Molinari and Fleetwood, there was a question mark behind every other selection.
Rose and Rahm were a solid pairing, but I couldn’t see Rahm’s temperament fitting well with Rose in the heat of battle. And so it proved to be down the final stretch of holes. Surely a calmer Stenson or Noren, if he wanted a rookie, would have been a stronger selection.
Casey is a proven Ryder Cup player and Tyrrell Hatton is a rising star and although they played well, neither possessed the proven championship pedigree of their opponents Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
The pairing of McIlroy and Olesen was the selection that baffled me most.
McIlroy is a man short on confidence at the moment so asking him to carry a statistically wayward rookie was always a huge gamble. And so it proved to be.
In fact, so poor was McIlroy’s performance that I expected him to be dropped for the afternoon’s foursomes.
While much of Europe’s tremendous fightback yesterday afternoon will be credited to Mollinari and Fleetwood’s inspirational come from behind victory against Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed in the last match of the morning session, huge credit must also be given to Captain Bjorn and his selectors for getting their foursomes selections as well as the course set-up just right.
In the afternoon, we saw just how demanding the course actually was on a wayward American team, who were simply outclassed by a ruthlessy clinical European team.
From a European perspective, there were many heroes on show but none was more important to the cause you feel than the talismanic Ian Poulter.
No other player in recent years has been more synonymous with the Ryder Cup than “the postman” (because he always delivers).
The hero of Medinah in 2012 where his display ranks among the greatest in the competition’s illustrious history, Poulter did more yesterday than just win yet another point for his beloved Europe.
Ever the showman, his exuberant performance against his more decorated opponents, oozed class, confidence and the type of determination that hopefully will lift Rory McIlroy out of his malaise and fire him and his team mates onto even greater things.
Although Poulter’s day to day profession is dominated by individual performances, no one, it seems, understands the impact of his on the course / off the course team effort better than himself.
Put simply, the Ryder Cup, is his fifth major championship. It is an extra special tournament, in which he is almost always a factor. Much like his predecessor, the great Seve Ballesteros, his passionate displays act to inspire others around him. They also amply demonstrate just how much winning means not just to himself but to every one of his Europe team mates. He doesn’t care who holes the winning putt. It’s the team’s performance that counts most.
Europe now head into today’s session with more than just a healthy lead. They have the psychological advantage of knowing that Le Golf National very much favours their game. Yesterday’s performance has also proven to them that they can come from behind to dominate and in one Ian Poulter, they have a player worth far more than just his on course performances.
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