Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia show brings back memories of swashbuckling forebears

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Sergio Garcia of Spain and team Europe (L) and Jon Rahm of Spain and team Europe celebrate on the 17th green after winning their match during Saturday Morning Foursome Matches of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 25, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. - GETTY IMAGES
Sergio Garcia of Spain and team Europe (L) and Jon Rahm of Spain and team Europe celebrate on the 17th green after winning their match during Saturday Morning Foursome Matches of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 25, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. - GETTY IMAGES

Pairing two swashbuckling Spaniards will be recalled as perhaps the one coherent decision of Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup captaincy. For Europe, the dynamic between Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia has provided a rare but precious connection to the feats of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, still the most decorated partnership in this event’s history. “The Spanish Armada,” the pair are being called, a nod to their exalted forebears. Usually, one might expect an armada to be composed of more than two elements. Then again, the Iberian duo were playing with the inspiration that came from carrying 10 others on their backs.

Even while their team-mates floundered desperately, they showcased the qualities that have wrested seven of the past nine contests from American hands. There is far to go before this partnership can be bracketed with Ballesteros and Olazabal, who won 12 points from 15 matches together, but Rahm and Garcia scrambled for all they were worth. Three down after three in foursomes against Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger, they struck back with an intensity to which their US opponents had no answer, snaffling a 3&1 victory. Then came the glorious encore, Rahm sinking a vital putt on the 16th in fourballs en route to a 2&1 triumph. With singles still to play, his personal points tally stands at 3½, the most ever by a reigning world No 1.

Garcia, likewise, was running on pure adrenalin, chipping in at the 10th to turn the foursomes around. This was a day of firsts for the 41-year-old, with his 24th and 25th Ryder Cup victories propelling him past Sir Nick Faldo’s record.

The joy was tempered by the shellacking the Europeans were taking elsewhere. “I didn’t know the record and I didn’t care,” Garcia said. “We need more wins, and unfortunately we’re not getting them. The Americans are playing a bit better than us, and it’s a shame. But we are not giving up. We are going to fight until the end, as hard as we can.” This obduracy was highlighted by their fourballs display, where, thanks to Rahm’s unerring putting, they preserved their narrow advantage over Koepka and Jordan Spieth.

Rahm has performed his role immaculately, underscoring his credentials as world No 1 with 2½ points of a possible three. His temperament is ideally suited to this stage, fiery one minute and icily calm the next. After abortive attempts to pair him in Paris with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, he has found his perfect foil in Garcia.

Jon Rahm of Spain and team Europe reacts on the third green during Saturday Morning Foursome Matches of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 25, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. - GETTY IMAGES
Jon Rahm of Spain and team Europe reacts on the third green during Saturday Morning Foursome Matches of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 25, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. - GETTY IMAGES

“We are both fully aware of our capabilities,” he explained. “We were both aware that at some point we were going to get a break and they weren’t. We just had to take advantage. He made a great chip-in, and that’s how we were able to keep it going. We support each other throughout, and even at the bad times, we were making each other smile. That’s the biggest part.”

Despite his dismay at the lopsided match situation, Garcia could take comfort from how he responded to the fan who heckled him on the first tee, shouting: “You’re going to choke.” “It was nice to prove him wrong, I guess,” he reflected. In this tussle, the only choke was committed by the querulous Koepka, who lost patience when two rules officials refused to grant him a free drop away from a drainage channel.

Few Ryder Cup cocktails are as intoxicating as Spanish flamboyance and American rage. This deserves to be inscribed as the foursomes face-off that had it all: a six-hole swing, an exquisite chip-in, plus a US unravelling. As the Europeans absorbed a battering here on the shores of Lake Michigan, it was the one stirring movement of a horribly discordant symphony.

Garcia’s talents for matchplay show little sign of waning, even with a Ryder Cup record that has spanned four different decades since his debut at Brookline in 1999. He entered this competition with as many points as the entire US team combined, and he has only enhanced his lustre through his double act with Rahm. His appetite for mischief has not diminished either. During Koepka’s remonstrations with rules experts, Garcia was laughing so hard at the absurdity of it all that he spat out his water.

Would that his team-mates had shown the same relish for the fight. Garcia was diplomatic when pressed on Europe’s torrid experience under Harrington, saying: “Sorry, I’m not going to start ripping anyone. Everyone is trying their hardest. I didn’t start well this morning. My first four holes weren’t good, and Jon was there to save me. Sometimes, you just get outplayed.”

Trying to fill the void left by Rory McIlroy’s abject showing here in Wisconsin, Rahm has proved the heartbeat of this European side. It is not just the standard of his play, but the intimidating presence he provides on course. It took just five holes of fourballs last night for tensions to threaten to boil over. Amid disagreeing about where Rahm intended to hit a drop after hitting his ball in the lake, heated words were exchanged between Spieth and the Spaniard’s caddie, Adam Hayes. Spieth told Hayes: “I didn’t raise my voice, buddy.”

A couple of fist-bumps were sufficient to defuse the incident. The scenes were reminiscent of the scenes that Ballesteros would conjure at the Ryder Cup out of sheer desperation to win. He was responsible for arguably the most memorable tiff the event has seen, asking to change a scuffed ball at The Belfry in 1989, before Azinger disputed that it was unfit to play. Rahm and Garcia have learned from the best in this department, unsettling the Americans at every turn. Despite Harrington’s haphazard approach to the art of captaining, they have scripted one storyline of which Europe can be proud.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting