“Yes, baby that is us,” shouted Sergio Garcia as the Europeans were announced at their post-event press conference as the winners of the 42nd Ryder Cup. That summed up perfectly what it meant to him and his team-mates to upset the odds by beating what, on paper at least, was the strongest United States side in the history of the event.
Alan Shipnuck, the American scribe who, in the build-up, had predicted this biennial bout was on the “verge of irrelevancy” due to the US being set to embark on a “decade-plus of blowouts” was in the interview room in the Media Centre at Le Golf National. Unsurprisingly, the European players couldn’t resist the temptation to rub it in. “You are some tipster,” said Garcia, gleefully.
Plenty wanted to add their bit, no doubt, but this was a stage to savour a very sweet success and no-one made the point better about why Thomas Bjorn’s team came out on top in the end than Justin Rose, the world No 2.
“We didn’t drop our guard all week long,” he said. “We stayed on point as a group, and everybody, the discipline that we showed, got us to this point where we can now let our hair down and now really drop our guard hard.
“What this team did was not drop their guard until this moment right here. This team was relentless in its pursuit of excellence. We ticked every box we could control all week long, whether it be recovery, nutrition, practice rounds. Our focus was unbelievable this week.”
Praising Bjorn, the Englishman added: “Thomas didn’t fill our week with pointless team meetings. He trusted us to be 12 players that would come together and today trusted us to be 12 individuals, 12 individuals working towards the same common goal. And that was his strength this week.”
It had already been a year to remember, of course, for Francesco Molinari after he won the Open Championship at Carnoustie in July – the first Italian to become a major champion. He’s also now become the only European player to win five matches out of five in a Ryder Cup and just the fourth in total, with one of the others being the great Arnold Palmer. Typically, though, the modest Molinari was more interested in talking about his team’s success than his own personal achievement here.
“I’m just so proud of every one of these guys. You can’t even imagine. You could see on Monday when we got together, it wasn’t ending up any other way,” he said. “I’ve been part of another two winning teams [at Celtic Manor and Medinah in 2010 and 2012] where I didn’t bring full points, and I’m glad after I’ve been carried on the shoulders by some of these guys to give something back. But it’s about every one of these guys, the vice captains, it’s just the best team I’ve ever been part of by miles.
“My summer has been great, but it’s been about these guys. My record was pretty shocking, really, coming into this week. So statistically, there was a good chance of winning some points [laughing]. I honestly don’t feel any difference bringing five points or one point or half a point like I did in Wales or in Medinah. I said it yesterday when they were asking me and Tommy [Fleetwood] about winning four out of four, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win the cup. That’s what this team is about, and I think honestly, that’s what makes the difference.”
Sergio Garcia also ended the match as a record-breaker, his 2&1 singles success over Rickie Fowler taking his points tally in the event to 24.5 points – the most recorded by any player, European or American. Claiming that from Nick Faldo proved extra special for the Spaniard after he vindicated the faith Bjorn had shown by picking him despite being out of form for most of the season, missing the cut in all four majors.
“What a week,” admitted ‘El Nino’. “It’s been a rough year. Obviously, I’m so thankful for Thomas to pick me and believe in me and so happy to get the cup back here in Paris and in Europe and for everyone to enjoy it as much as they did.
“It [the record] means a lot but, at the end of the day and I’ve always said it, it’s about the team and I’m happy that I was able to help. I’m happy that I was able to help with some of the points. It’s a bonus.
“It’s something that I never thought I would have the possibility of doing it, and now that it’s happened. These guys are unbelievable.
“The crowds were amazing. They always are but it was just unbelievable how supportive they were here. I’ve never had so many big cheers like I’ve had this week. It was amazing, and I’m just really happy that they get to celebrate now.”
This was Garcia’s eighth appearance and he said of the winning line-up: “It was a hell of a team. I think that a lot of people thought that the Ryder Cup was over before it was played and I guess unfortunately they picked the wrong team [by tipping the Americans to win].”