Continental Europe beat Great Britain and Ireland to win inaugural Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi

Captain Francesco Molinari pays tribute to team after victory at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Sunday

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Francesco Molinari paid tribute to his Continental Europe team after they defeated Great Britain and Ireland on Sunday to win the inaugural Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi.

The Europeans, who entered Sundays singles with a two-point lead, triumphed in six of the 10 matches at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to take the trophy 14.5 to 10.5.

Poland’s Adrian Meronk sank the decisive putt on the final hole to claim a 1-Up victory against Englishman Callum Shinkwin, lifting Europe to an unassailable 13.5 points with one match remaining on the course.

Italy’s Guido Migliozzi then saw off England’s Richard Mansell 4&3 to conclude the tournament on a high for his team.

Speaking after Meronk had secured the cup but while Migliozzi’s match was still live, Molinari said: “Amazing, amazing. I can finally relax – the last couple of hours have been tense after finishing my game.

“But yeah, 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.”

Molinari, the standout star of Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup success, led from the front on Sunday, the Italian defeating fellow Open champion Shane Lowry 3&2 in the opening match, before GB and I counterpart Tommy Fleetwood put a point on the board for his team with a 3&2 victory against Thomas Pieters.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton then reeled off an impressive 5&4 win against Frenchman Antoine Rozner, only for Europe to answer back through Nicolai Hojgaard’s triumph on the last hole against Seamus Power.

Matt Wallace kept GB and I in it by seeing off Thomas Detry 2&1, together with Robert MacIntyre’s 5&3 success against Alex Noren. However, wins for Victor Perez – 4&2 over Jordan Smith — and Sepp Straka – 5&4 against Ewen Ferguson – left Meronk to hole a 30-foot putt on the last to clinch the cup.

Fleetwood, who famously partnered Molinari to four points from four at the 2018 Ryder Cup, could not extend his fond memories of the capital having twice won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the National Course.

However, the GB and I captain said: “We obviously came here to win and wanted to do it for each other. The first thing I said at the start of the week was, ‘Your teammates don’t remember if you play bad, miss a putt or lose a point’.

“But everybody remembers if you don’t give 100 per cent, and I couldn’t have asked for any more from anybody this week. It’s been an amazing experience for me, and I’ve loved playing with my teammates.

“But [Europe] clearly deserved it: they played the best golf and the winning team makes those moments count.”

The Hero Cup, which effectively replaces the Seve Trophy that ran between 2000 and 2013, has been introduced primarily to give potential European Ryder Cup players a taste of the format.

This week’s event was overseen by Luke Donald, the European captain for this year’s Ryder Cup, which takes place in Rome from September 29-October 1.

“It’s a great motivation for me,” Molinari said of making the team. “It’s a long way away and there's a lot of golf to play. I need to focus on my game, which is much better than it has been. Being in Rome would be incredible.”

Updated: January 15, 2023, 1:16 PM
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