Fleetwood secures Ryder Cup for Europe after brave US fightback
Europe survived a fierce American fightback to secure the four points required to reclaim the Ryder Cup with popular Englishman Tommy Fleetwood sealing the deal in a nerve-jangling climax at the Marco Simone course on Sunday.
The Americans, attempting the biggest final-day comeback in the history of the biennial event, finally found their mojo after being outplayed and largely out-fought for two days.
But hauling back a daunting 15-1/2-10-1/2 deficit proved beyond them and Fleetwood made it mathematically certain the trophy would return to Europe when his opponent Rickie Fowler conceded the 16th hole to leave Fleetwood two up with two to play and guaranteed a half point.
Fleetwood duly completed a 3&1 victory but the celebrations had already started as Europe extended their 30-year unbeaten home record against the Americans and avenged the record 19-9 thrashing they endured at Whistling Straits in 2021.
While the final score was 16-1/2-11-1/2 Sunday's finale was far more stressful than Europe captain Luke Donald would have imagined.
"They put up a fight today so hats off to them. But I am so proud of my 12 guys," Donald, whose team seized control of the 44th Ryder Cup on Friday with a 4-0 sweep of the morning foursomes.
"We started off great, which was what we needed. Then a few matches changed to red. We kept looking at the board and thinking, where will we find 14 and a half points?"
Donald had top-loaded his singles order with world No 3 Jon Rahm, No 4 Viktor Hovland and No 2 Rory McIlroy, who was involved in unsavoury scenes the night before, in the opening four matches.
Norway's Hovland, outstanding throughout the three days, was unstoppable as he finished off Collin Morikawa on the 15th green for a 4&3 victory which included seven birdies.
In the top match, Spain's Masters champion Rahm and world No 1 Scottie Scheffler slugged out a gladiatorial duel which ended tied as Rahm won the 18th hole.
Northern Ireland's McIlroy, playing in his seventh Ryder Cup, beat rookie Sam Burns 3&1 to get Europe to 13 points.
Elsewhere, however, the Americans began to paint the scoreboard red with Patrick Cantlay, whose heroics in a stormy fourballs match on Saturday gave the visitors hope, beat Justin Rose.
With the US leading several matches the pressure began to build but England's Tyrrell Hatton held on for a 3&2 victory over British Open champion Brian Harman to leave Europe needing a half point from the seven matches still going on.
Zach Johnson's Americans were not finished, though.
Brooks Koepka beat Swede Ludvig Aberg before Max Homa survived a tension-riddled 18th hole to hang on for a 1-up win over Matt Fitzpatrick who had the chance to deliver the half point only to miss an 18-foot birdie putt.
When Xander Schauffele beat Nicolai Hojgaard to make it 14-10, every shot took on huge significance but when Fowler drove his tee shot into water at the par-four 16th and Fleetwood drove the green, Europe could breathe easy.
Fleetwood had two putts from three feet to win the hole but when Fowler did not make him finish off the 32-year-old Englishman threw his arms skywards in celebration.