Ryder Cup 2021: Sergio Garcia equals record for most match wins
Another Ryder Cup, another record for Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard was made for this event. As, by the looks of it, was compatriot Jon Rahm.
Stirring memories of the event’s most iconic partnership of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, the pair joined forces for the first time to brilliant effect on the opening morning at Whistling Straits.
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth had been the US dream team coming into the 43rd edition, having won three points together from four matches at Le Golf National in France in 2018.
They were hit by a juggernaut in this assignment or, as Spieth put it, they “run into a buzzsaw”.
Through a combination of Garcia’s masterful ball-striking and Rahm rolling in putt after putt, the Europeans ran out 3&1 winners, producing an impressive six birdies in the foursomes format.
The point took Garca’s overall in the biennial contest to 26.5 points, having become the all-time record points tally with his contribution as a captain’s pick by Thomas Bjorn last time out against the Americans.
He also now shares the record for most match wins - 23 - with Nick Faldo and, on top of that, moved level as well with Bernhard Langer when it comes to the most foursomes wins, having now racked up 11 success in the alternate shot format.
“It felt great,” said Garcia, who is making his 10th appearance in the event, of his latest contribution for the ‘Boys in Blue’, having never been scared to wear his heart on his sleeve on this stage. “But I knew who I had on my side and I wouldn't change him (Rahm) for anyone, it was amazing. He made every putt he had to make, and it was a good match.”
According to Harrington, the “whole world will be watching” as the delayed contest got underway with a mouth-watering opening match and that certainly lived up to its billing.
After Garcia had almost chipped in from the back fringe, Thomas was unable to convert a great birdie chance at the first before instantly making amends from a similar range for a hole-winning birdie at the long second.
That lead didn’t last long, though, as world No 1 Rahm quickly found his putting touch, knocking in a 15-footer for a 2 then a raking 40-footer from just off the edge of the green at the fourth.
Rahm then found water with Europe’s second shot at the fifth, losing that to a par 5, but the Spaniards were soon smiling again.
Thomas hit the US tee shot to around 10 feet at the par-3 but, after Garcia replied with an equally impressive blow, Rahm judged a 12-footer with some break in it to perfection for the European duo’s second hole-wining birdie-2 of the morning.
The US Open champion then knocked in one from eight feet, this one breaking the other way, at the par-4 eighth and celebrated that with a fist pump as they went two up for the first time.
Garcia’s lovely chip to around two feet at the 10th set up another hole-winning birdie before the Americans clawed one back after a lovely approach from Spieth at the 13th.
The Texan repeated the feat at the 15th only for Garcia to pop in a 25-footer for a brilliant birdie-3 at the 15th and Thomas to miss on this occasion, leading to the door being closed two holes later despite Spieth producing an incredible shot from a bank below the 17th and did well to stop himself from ending up in Lake Michigan.
“Jordan and Justin played well, and we had to play very, very well to beat them,” said Garcia. “It was a well-played match and very happy to be able to get a point for Europe.”
In comparison to Garcia, Rahm is playing in only his second Ryder Cup, though beating Tiger Woods in the singles in being part of a winning team in France wasn’t a bad opening chapter.
This, though, was probably a more special memory for Rahm due to the fact he’d been desperate to partner Garcia on this occasion and that meant even more to them when they were sent out first by Harrington.
“You were seeing and feeling exactly what we were feeling,” he replied to it being pointed out that they’d seemed to be the complete pairing, as had been the case, of course in this event, when Ballesteros and Olazabal went to war in this contest.
“We had an idea it was going to be Justin and Jordan and, when the matchup was announced, my first thought was the Spanish legacy that the Ryder Cup has.
“With Sergio being the European with the most amount of points ever, there was a little bit of pressure to play with somebody like that, but at the same time, with his ball-striking, I knew my job was going to be to make some putts, and that's exactly what I did early on, and we kept the vibe going.
“Felt so good out there. Such a complete day, and I think everybody out there was feeling what we were feeling. And it was a really fun day.”
Garcia may be Rahm’s senior, but it was a thrill, he said, to be paired with the game’s current top-ranked player. “Even though this is my 10th Ryder Cup, I was very honored to play with Jon,” he said. “It's something that I wanted to do for a while.
“I was very honored to hit the first tee shot, and it was just amazing how well we both played and how Jon stepped up every time he had to do it. It was great.”
Spieth said the Americans had no complaints. “They made about 150 feet of putts,” observed the 2017 Open champion. So sometimes you run into a buzzsaw.”
Despite the great start delivered by the Spaniards, Europe lost the opening session 3-1. But, while disappointed about that, it was the same score in 2018 and, as Harrington was quick to point out, Europe still managed to win that match by seven points.
A message from the Editor:
Get a year of unlimited access to all of The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis, exclusive interviews, live blogs, and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.