SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — At approximately 1:30 p.m. Paris time Friday, European golf fans were ready to call for Thomas Bjorn’s head. Four hours later and they were ready to make their Ryder Cup captain president of every country on the continent.
Bjorn went from zero to hero when his team delivered a foursomes’ whitewash of Jim Furyk’s U.S. team. Bjorn talked about having several prepared plans for this Ryder Cup. Right now, he looks like he has a master plan.
No European team had gone 4-0 against a U.S. team in foursomes, and no European team had won a session 4-0 since Europe swept the first four-ball session of the 1989 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. Furyk might take some solace from that statistic. Europe swept that session and hung onto the Ryder Cup as previous winners when the match ended in a 14-14 draw.
Bjorn came back at the U.S. after losing 3-1 in the morning four-balls with some pairings that now look inspired. After a gamble that went wrong by blooding four of his five rookies in the morning four-balls, Bjorn went with experience in his first two pairings, putting Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson together and sending out Miracle of Medinah tandem Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy in the second match. Sergio Garcia chaperoned Alex Noren in his first Ryder Cup action, while Bjorn stuck with the reliable Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood.
The result? perfection.
“There were a few guys sitting out this morning that you normally see in the first session, but they were very keen to go out and play this afternoon and prove that we are a team and we do it with all 12,” Bjorn said. “We’re one team and did it with all 12 today. That was the plan through the whole week. We wanted to get everybody on the golf course today.
“Those guys that sat out this morning, I’m very proud of what they did because they came out and showed quality and class.”
Poulter and McIlroy had never lost in two appearances as a tandem, but that was in four-balls. They’d never played foursomes together. Talk about an inspired decision. They came back from two down after three holes to defeat Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 4 and 2.
“Poults and I and the guys had a discussion earlier in the week, and it was sort of a little bit of a last-minute thing that Poults and I would go and try to play foursomes,” McIlroy saId. “We played well together at Medinah. We played well together at Gleneagles. It was nice to get back out there with him and deliver another point.”
Bjorn was heavily criticised for making out-of-form Sergio Garcia a captain’s pick. It now looks like a great choice, certainly better than Furyk’s decision to select Phil Mickelson. That was obvious from the afternoon’s third match which pitted Garcia and Noren against Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau. The European duo made six birdies, while Mickelson and DeChambeau looked like they’d never met each other never mind contemplated pairing up. They were seven down through nine, expecting Furyk to toss a white towel onto the 10th green to put them out of their misery.
“I get so lucky – I get paired with amazing partners,” said Garcia, who teamed with his 11th different partner in his ninth Ryder Cup. “We played some amazing golf. Alex was a rock. I helped him a little bit here and there and it was great to get a point.”
Make that four points. There’s a long way to go in this 42nd Ryder Cup, but Bjorn’s on course to become Captain Fantastic.