Continental Europe were celebrating capturing the inaugural Hero Cup with a convincing four-point success but with both Irish Shane Lowry and Seamus Power each losing their Singles in Abu Dhabi.
Europe went into the deciding Singles leading by two points at 8 ½ to 6 ½ and inspired by their undefeated captain Francesco Molinari went on to seal a 14 ½ to 10 ½ win over the host National course.
Austrian Adrian Meronk, with his own six-man cheer squad sporting shirts with each letter of Meronk’s surname, holed the winning putt when he secured a 1up victory over Callum Shinkwin.
The Hero Cup was brought back onto the DP World Tour schedule following the loss of the Seve Trophy, a similar event inaugurated in 2000 and ending in 2013, with Europe winning just twice in the nine events, and that being in the first and last years.
And there was none better on the European team than Molinari who had a convincing 3&2 win over Shane Lowry.
The champion Italian had been a member of the 2013 Seve Cup side and he led his team by example being unbeaten his matches, winning 4 ½ points from a possible five.
After winning five from five points at the 2018 Ryder Cup, Molinari has now won 9 ½ out of 10 points in his last two match-play appearances.
And while Molinari has not enjoyed the best of times in regular tournament competition, there was no hiding his delight in being the first captain to get his hands on the gleaming new silver trophy.
“Amazing, amazing. I could finally relax. The last couple of hours have been tense after finishing my game,” said Molinari.
“It’s been great all week, super happy for the guys. Like I said all week, it’s been very, very easy leading them and being a captain for them. I think we found some really good pairings and just had a great week to start the year and I can only wish them all the best for the rest of the season.
“I am just pleased many, many things. Many pairings seemed to gel really, really well, which was great. Made my job a lot easier because I didn’t have to tinker and change too much. Just spending time with some of the guys, the younger guys that maybe I didn’t know as well, it’s been great fun.
“And as for this year’s Ryder Cup it’s invaluable, really, especially for the younger guys but even for us, to play match play, just get the juices going early, this early in the year, it’s a great event. We really enjoy it. The DP World Tour has done a great job at setting it up. Obviously, the crowds have enjoyed it as well.
“I think we played some really good golf all in all, so hopefully we can do it again next year or the year after”.
It was Molinari who struck from the outset against Lowy holing a 15-foot birdie at the first to go 1up and while each birdied the second, the joint hero at the 2018 Ryder Cup went 2up when he birdied the third.
And if Lowry’s demeanour needed any further blows after losing all three prior matches, then Molinari did just that, rubbing further salt into a growing wound by winning the shortest par-3 fourth hole with a par.
Lowry, who has his name under that of Molinari on the famed Claret Jug, then birdied the seventh and eighth holes to get back to just 1 down.
However, Molinari had other ideas, winning 13 and 14 and with Lowry making a mess of the 16th, first getting a ‘fried egg’ in a fairway bunker and then finding a second bunker, taking a double-bogey for the Italian to win 3&2.
“It feels good getting that first point and it was great to play alongside Shane”, said Molinari.
“We each played some great golf, back-and-forward making birdies and also hitting really good shots, but then it was nice to come out on top”.
Disappointingly, Lowry ended the event winless losing all four matches.
Seamus Power, out in match four also handed his team a super start winning the first and third holes with birdies to race 2up against the unbeaten Nicolai Hojgaard.
Hojgaard struck back in winning three holes in succession from the seventh, including eagling the eighth for the late European team replacement to go 1up. Both players then halved 10 and 11 with birdies before Power got back to square with a sixth birdie of his round at the 13th.’
Hojgaard then set about sealing Power’s fate winning 16 with a birdie to the Irishman’s bogey ‘5’ and after each bogeyed 17 for the Dane’s 1up win.
GB&I Captain Tommy Fleetwood commented, “It’s not always about how you play. Obviously we came here to win and we wanted to do it for each other but at the end of the day, the first thing that I said at the start of the week was teammates don’t remember if you play bad or you miss a putt or you lose a point but everybody remembers if you don’t give it 100 percent, and I couldn’t have asked for anymore from anybody this week.
“It’s been amazing and it’s been an amazing experience for me. I wish we could have got it done but at the same time, you do; you remember these moments forever and you cherish them.”