LALI STANDER: Ryder Cup still stirs up emotions
European victory was never really under serious threat at any point over the three days
The Ryder Cup undoubtedly remains the one golf event that stirs up the emotions for players and spectators more than any other, and 2023 was no exception.
Europe and Tommy Fleetwood stole the headlines with their 16½-11½ triumph amid the usual drama, controversy and record-breaking feats in Rome.
Europe started hot on the Friday morning, winning all four foursomes to kick the match off. From there, Team USA was always in trouble, and it was not until Saturday afternoon that they began to show signs of life. The singles remained tense until the last couple of matches, but a European victory was never really under serious threat at any point over the three days.
After every edition of golf’s biannual intercontinental grudge match the postmortems follow. There were a few members of the supporting cast that deserve a nod for playing their part, and a couple that demand a mention for collapsing under the pressure.
One of the most surprising and miserable fails of the week at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club had to be Scottie Scheffler.
For all the brilliant golf he has played this season, the world No 1 was one of the US Team’s weakest links. The 9 & 7 defeat he and Brooks Koepka suffered at the hands of Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg in the Saturday morning foursomes was the largest margin of victory for an 18-hole match, foursomes or otherwise, in the history of the Ryder Cup. Instead of winning him supporters, the tears that flowed after made him the butt of jokes, which only intensified as he finished the week as the first world No 1 to go winless in a Ryder Cup.
Jon Rahm. The very definition of a big-game player, who more than lived up to his top billing for Europe.
In the final round singles, he twice produced big pressure putts and delighted the crowd with several chip-ins to snatch victory from Scheffler. Throughout the week, skipper Luke Donald leant on Rahm heavily and big-hitting Spaniard responded by going undefeated.
Justin Rose. The embodiment of the true spirit of the Ryder Cup.
Taking debutant Bob MacIntyre under his wing, the pair didn’t lose a match, and Rose’s putt and celebration to tie their four-ball match against Max Homa and Wyndham Clark on the 18th on Friday will live long in the memory.
Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman won four of his five matches, and it required an inspired birdie blitz from Patrick Cantlay to foil an undefeated run. That, and a bit of unnecessary chirping from Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava that spilt over to the car park after the match and took the gloss off what was McIlroys best performance yet for the blue and gold brigade.
Viktor Hovland. Europe’s best performer and what a revelation.
The Norwegian holed some monster putts on day one that really got the crowd going as he and Abert inflicted the heaviest defeat on any team in Ryder Cup history. It was riveting stuff, as was his 4 & 3 routing of Collin Morikawa in the singles.
Tommy Fleetwood. Call him Europe’s new postman. Call him Mr Reliable. One thing is certain, he always rises to the occasion. Thriving under the pressure, Fleetwood now holds a 75% winning record after he produced that decisive point in the singles Europe needed for the win.
While every single man on the European Tour contributed something for Donald, only a few made the grade for the Americans.
Homa stood head and shoulders above the rest with a brilliant debut.
The only one to enhance his reputation over the three days, Homa recorded the team’s only winning record and produced two of the most memorable moments of the competition — a walk-off chip in that gave the US their first full point on day one, and the second, a brilliant up-and-down on his way to beating Matt Fitzpatrick in the singles.
You wouldn’t think anyone could have fared worse than Scheffler, but Ricky Fowler did — contributing absolutely nothing all week.
Looking at the 24-man line up, I’d have to say that every one of them — including Rose at 43 years old — have a realistic chance of making the 2025 teams. Donald appears to be a shoo-in to get a second term as Europe’s captain. Zach Johnston not so much.
Yes, Europe did outplay the US over the three days, but the captain’s pairings in the foursomes and four balls over the first two days were questionable and he didn’t emanate inspiration. Add to that the whispers of discord in the locker room and I very much doubt Johnston will be around in two years.
And neither will the LIV Golf players, who will have to keep playing for wild cards after their application for official world-ranking points was turned down this week.
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