Ryder Cup 2023: So much for US dominance as Europe reign supreme in Rome

So much for the start of a period of American domination in the Ryder Cup. That’s what many were predicting, remember, after a new wave of US stars cruised to victory at Whistling Straits two years ago. The Europeans were going to be cannon fodder for the 2023 match and many more to come.
Captain Luke Donald and Team Europe pose with the Ryder Cup after their victory at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.Captain Luke Donald and Team Europe pose with the Ryder Cup after their victory at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Captain Luke Donald and Team Europe pose with the Ryder Cup after their victory at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

Not so and Luke Donald wasted no time ramming that point down some throats. “I'm just so happy for these 12 guys, they gave everything this week,” said the European captain as he savoured his side’s sweet 16.5-11.5 win at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club on the eastern outskirts of Rome. “They were a pleasure to be around. They made my life very easy and they played like superstars. Not many people gave us a chance, I don't think, especially two years ago. Yeah, well, we proved them wrong.”

The Englishman was speaking as he was surrounded by his players in the interview room and Rory McIlroy, one of Donald’s leading lights over the three days, raised a big cheer from his team-mates as he echoed his captain, saying: “Yes, we did.”

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After a productive first two days, the home team only needed four points in the concluding session. Following the early exchanges, it looked as though it would be mission accomplished without any fuss as lots of blue flashes appeared on the board. But this is the Ryder Cup and, not for the first time in its history, the tide turned. In most of the middle matches, the Americans quickly seized the upper hand, which meant the top six were going to be key and the bottom two, one of which involved Bob MacIntyre, as well.

Viktor Hovland, Europe’s smiling assassin who is going to be a star on this stage for a long time to come, put the first point on the board as he took care of two-time major winner Collin Morikawa. A ding-dong battle between Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, the world No 1 and No 1 respectively, then ended all square and rightly so as both of these golfing gladiators gave it their all in golf’s equivalent of the Colosseum. “Yeah, it was a good battle,” admitted Scheffler, who’d suffered a record 9&7 defeat alongside Brooks Koepka in Saturday’s fourballs and wasn’t allowed to forget that as fans on every hole early on ribbed him about it. “He made some clutch shots, and so did I.”

Patrick Cantlay, who did an Ian Poulter for the Americans on Saturday night by finishing with three straight birdies to hand them some much-needed momentum for the singles, beat a battling Justin Rose before McIlroy made it 13-7 as he defeated Sam Burns. When the tenacious Tyrrell Hatten then beat Open champion Brian Harman, the home team were tantalisingly close to that magic total, but it turned into a twitchy hour or so as Brooks Koepka, Max Homa and Xander Schauffle all delivered points for Zach Johnson’s team.

Homa’s win over Matt Fitzpatrick was particularly notable. The pair both missed some short putts down the stretch before Homa kept his nose in front despite taking a penalty drop from an unplayable lie close to the green. He did brilliantly to save par and the Californian is another one who is going to play a big part in these tussles going forward.

In the end, Europe were nudged over the line by Tommy Fleetwood as he was generously given a three-foot birdie putt by Rickie Fowler on the par-16th, where there was drama in almost every match over the five sessions. That guaranteed Fleetwood a half point before he went on to make it a full one.

“I'm quite relieved, I must say,” said the Englishman, smiling. “I was so happy to see that tee shot start off where it did on 16. It wasn't really moving. Yeah, just I think relief, pride, joy. Proud of everybody that's been involved this week and just proud that I'm one of the people that gets to a play role in what we came here to do.”

MacIntyre, who’d been three up early on before being pegged back to all square by US Open champion Wyndham Clark after 14, then added another point before Shane Lowry, who, in contrast came back from three down, finished all square with Jordan Spieth in the last match to finish.

“Yeah, the Ryder Cup, there's always lots of swings and emotions and changes,” said Donald, who only got the job due to Henrik Stenson being stripped of the post after signing for LIV Golf but did a sensational job surrounded by a perfect mix of vice-captains. “At one point I was looking at the board trying to figure out how we get to 14 1/2 points, but, in the end, we got there easily.”

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In truth, the Americans never really recovered from suffering a first 4-0 clean sweep in the opening session before then finding themselves trailing by a record-equalling five-point margin at the end of the first day. Too many of Johnson’s players under-performed - Scheffler was the first world No 1 to go winless in a Ryder Cup - and the captain himself made some strange decisions with pairings.

“I would love to start the week over but that’s not possible,” he said. “You know, regret is a strong word, but I wish I would have done a better job of that. I don’t know what it looks like – never will – but it’s not a matter of anything other than Team Europe scored more points.

“They played great and they were very impressive. We got outplayed. I’m proud of my guys, they fought. It’s not them, it’s on me. Maybe it’s some poor decisions, something to reflect (on). I don’t know yet.”

But that shouldn’t take anything away from their opponents. At the start of a new era, Europe were brilliant in a brilliant Ryder Cup.



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