‘Vamos!’: Garcia firing up Europe at Ryder Cup
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AP) — Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson were handed captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup as much for their value in the team room as out on the course.
Only one of the veterans is delivering on both fronts at Le Golf National.
Garcia has burst out of a slump in form and come alive in France, winning two of his three matches to move within a point of becoming the record point-scorer in the competition’s 91-year history. He has played with a smile on his face and a glint in his eye, his enthusiasm clearly contagious as the European team closes in on regaining the cup.
Mickelson’s play was so poor in his one match on Friday — a 5-and-4 loss in the afternoon foursomes to Garcia and Alex Noren — that he was sat out on Saturday for the second straight time on European soil. He was left to act as a glorified cheerleader for the Americans, at one stage sticking out his belly so it could be patted by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas presumably for good luck.
The 48-year-old Mickelson, appearing in his 12th straight Ryder Cup, still has time to turn his week around in Sunday’s singles matches. Given he is playing Francesco Molinari — who is 4-0 over Friday and Saturday — and his frailty off the tee at a course where there’s a premium on driving accuracy, it seems unlikely.
Instead, it’s Garcia who has managed to rediscover his form when he most needed it.
Fresh off his big win on Friday, Garcia teamed with Rory McIlroy in the opening match of Saturday’s fourballs to beat Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka 2 and 1. The point was clinched by a long birdie putt from Garcia on No. 17, which elicited a furious fist pump and a cry of “Vamos!”
“Any time I didn’t hit a great shot, Sergio was always on my shoulder with encouragement telling me to come on, and that’s great to hear from someone like him,” McIlroy said. “And his passion and fire for the Ryder Cup is second to none, and it’s pretty infectious.”
The victory moved Garcia onto 24 1/2 points at the Ryder Cup — past Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and Billy Casper, and with only Nick Faldo on 25 ahead of him. Selected alongside Noren for the afternoon foursomes, Garcia had a chance to break the record as Mickelson watched from the sidelines .
The Europeans lost five of the first eight holes and wound up getting beaten 3 and 2 by Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, but Garcia’s passion stayed to the end.
He bounded up the fairways like a teenager, eager to discover the fate of his shots, and whipped up the vast crowds that lined every hole and filled every bank or grandstand. He put his arm round Noren’s shoulder on the tee and constantly offered words of encouragement and advice.
“He comes into his own in this tournament,” McIlroy said. “Longevity, consistency, fire, passion. This is what he lives for.”
Garcia missed the cut at all four majors this year. He failed to make the weekend at seven of 11 tournaments from April to August, a period starting from the week he defended his Masters title.
He wondered if his game was going to return in time to get selected for the Ryder Cup.
Europe captain Thomas Bjorn always believed in his friend, saying that going to Le Golf National without Garcia would be “like a football team going in without their captain.”
The selection has been vindicated.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80