Europe claim another Ryder Cup record to lead 8-4
Europe created another slice of Ryder Cup history as they doubled their two-point overnight lead after dominating the second morning in the event's 42nd staging at Le Golf National near Paris.
Having already claimed their first 4-0 whitewash in the foursomes on Friday afternoon, Thomas Bjorn’s team set a second record in the biennial event as they kept their foot on the throats of the Americans by reeling off eight points on the trot.
That is the hottest streak by either team since the current format was introduced in 1979 and it left the Europeans leading 8-4 as they bid to reclaim the trophy following a heavy defeat at Hazeltine two years ago.
Rory McIlroy had been out of sorts in the company of Thorbjorn Olesen as they tasted defeat in the first-day fourballs, but he was more effective alongside Sergio Garcia on this occasion.
Up against Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka, a winning combination on the opening morning, McIlroy had a bit of his mojo back as he birdied the third, sixth and eighth to set up Europe’s first point of the session.
Continuing to vindicate his selection by Thomas Bjorn, having already delivered a victory in tandem with Alex Noren in Friday’s fourballs, Garcia also played his part and certainly enjoyed coaxing in a birdie putt at the par-3 11th.
That put the Europeans four up and, although Finau and Kopeka rallied by winning three holes in a row from the 13th, Garcia calmy rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at the 17th to kill off that comeback.
The success took Garcia’s points tally in the Ryder Cup to 24.5 points, lifting him above Bernhard Langer into second place as Europe’s highest point scorer and a win away from overtaking Nick Faldo as well.
“It was great,” said Garcia of the win. “We played really, really well. We gelled extremely well and that’s what you need in fourballs.”
An equally delighted McIlroy added: “I did not have my best stuff again, but I got some great encouragment from Sergio. His passion for the Ryder Cup is second to none and that is pretty infectious.”
Given a second chance by Bjorn after losing first time out, Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton repaid that faith by producing the best golf of the morning.
Helped by Casey bursting out of the blocks with five birdies in the first six holes - three of them were hole winners - they were nine-under for 16 holes in beating Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.
Hatton, one of the five rookies in the home team, then took over with three birdies in the middle of the round, including a 2 to win the eighth - before his partner came back in to birdie the par-5 14th.
“This is a special moment for me,” admitted Hatton after the pair went on to seal a brillaint 3&2 win while an emotional Casey, who last played in this event a decade ago, added: “It feels great.”
That success saw Europe claim seven points in a row and the record books were being re-written when that became eight - the most in succession by either team since the current format was introduced in 1979.
The honour of achieving that feat, fittingly given their contribution here, went to Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari as they beat Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed for the second morning in succession.
Molinari, the Open champion, doesn’t normally show much emotion on the golf course but even he found himself caught up in the occasion, cupping his ear to try and raise the noise level in the crowd at one point.
Fleetwood, last year’s Race to Dubai winner, got them off and running on this occasion before Molinari took over by hitting his tee shot close at the 11th for the first of three birdies on the trot as they went on to triumph 4&3.
“I’ve been very, very lucky to get partnered with Fran,” said Fleetwood, another of the European newcomers, as the duo savoured making it three wins out of three.
“Today we were solid, and just started riding that wave again on the back nine when Fran started playing great.” The rot was stopped for the Americans by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas as they dug deep to eke out a 2&1 victory over Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm in the anchor match.
However, it was still a profitable for Europe, equalling the largest lead after three sessions since that format change just under 40 years ago.