Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Ryder Cup in Rome stays right at home for Europeans

Published:Monday | October 2, 2023 | 12:09 AM
The Europe team, led by captain Luke Donald (centre), lift the Ryder Cup after winning it at the Marco Simone Golf Club in Guidonia Montecelio, Italy yesterday.
The Europe team, led by captain Luke Donald (centre), lift the Ryder Cup after winning it at the Marco Simone Golf Club in Guidonia Montecelio, Italy yesterday.


The best collection of players at Marco Simone had flags from their eight countries draped around their shoulders as they took turns clutching and thrusting the gold Ryder Cup, the very trophy that turns them into one nation, one team, with one purpose.

The celebration was familiar on European soil, and so were the winners of the Ryder Cup.

Team Europe, embarrassed two years at Whistling Straits when they suffered their worst loss to the Americans, got their payback yesterday, along with that 17-inch trophy.

“Not many people gave us a chance, I don’t think, especially after two years ago,” European captain Luke Donald said. “Well, we proved them wrong.”

Europe now have seven straight wins at home dating to 1993.

This one wasn’t even particularly close, from the opening session Friday, which Europe swept for the first time in history, to yesterday’s singles that led to a 16-1/2 to 11-1/2 victory.

Rory McIlroy, in tears two years ago after his shabby performance, was among Europe’s top players who quickly doused any American dreams of a rally. He beat Sam Burns to go 4-1 for the week, the first time he was Europe’s top scorer in his seventh appearance.

“I was so disappointed after Whistling Straits — we all were,” McIlroy said. “And we wanted to come here to Rome and redeem ourselves.”

Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton also picked up key points early in the singles line-up, leaving Europe needing only a half-point to reaching the winning total. Tommy Fleetwood delivered the clincher, hitting a signature shot on the signature hole at Marco Simone — a drive to 25 feet on the reachable 16th against Rickie Fowler.

Fowler, now with a 1-8-5 road record in the Ryder Cup, hit into the water and wound up conceding the birdie to Fleetwood, who raised both arms to the loudest cheer of the week.

“I really didn’t want to come down to one of us at the back,” said Fleetwood, in the 11th spot in the line-up. “Just so happened to play a part — it was a bit bigger than I thought I was going to have when we saw the draw. But just so proud of being part of this team.”

The Americans were confident, mainly based on their 19-9 victory in Wisconsin two years ago, that they finally would win on European soil for the first time in 30 years.

Now, make it 34 years. Their next chance is 2027 at Adare Manor in Ireland.

“I think the European team played some phenomenal golf. I think it really is quite that simple,” US captain Zach Johnson said, his voice choking to the point that it was hard for him to complete a sentence. “Team USA will be better for it. We’ll figure it out.”

Johnson is sure to face scrutiny for his six picks, leading to perceptions they were as much about friendships as good form. The six picks combined to go 4-12-4 for the week. Whether it would have mattered is hard to tell.

“This is our time to shine, not because this is our stage. We are just taking care of it because of the amazing role models that we’ve had before us that have shown us how to do it,” said Justin Rose, at 43, the oldest player in the Ryder Cup.