Europe won this raucous Ryder Cup in Rome, but only just. Fired up by clashes between the two teams on Saturday night, USA came out battling in the Sunday singles and almost pulled off a miracle at Marco Simone. Match after match turned red on the board but Europe held back the sea, and it was left to one of the most popular members of the team, Tommy Fleetwood, to finish the job in an understated moment on the 16th green.
Shane Lowry’s tied match with Jordan Spieth was the final act on the 18th green, but by then the European party had already started and Lowry just wanted to join in. It finished 16½ – 11½, but that score did not tell the story of a nervy day. “At one stage it was looking dodgy,” Lowry admitted, “but I had faith in the boys to get it done.”
This was a ferocious and often emotional three-day battle, which ended with tears on both sides, but it was really won on the first morning. The scores from Friday afternoon onwards were almost dead level, but that 4-0 whitewash in the opening foursomes gave USA an almost impossible hill to climb. The postmortem will be revealing, but it seemed like Europe were more united and better prepared, and it gave them a winning platform.
It was a remarkable reversal after they were so brutally dismantled at Whistling Straits two years ago. Luke Donald will get huge credit for his calm and collected captaincy, which Rory McIlroy described as breathing “quiet confidence” into his players. So too will Eduordo Molinari, the stats guru in the background matching Europe’s perfect pairs. Ryder Cup captains come and go but there will be calls for Donald and his background team to stay and lead again in New York in two years’ time.
The greatest credit, though, will rightly go to the players. Only a few months ago they were considered rank outsiders, but a spate of wins and high finishes on tour changed the narrative heading to Rome. Rookies Ludvig Aberg, Bob MacIntyre, Nicolai Hojgaard and Sepp Straka all played their part, and the leaders – world No 2 Rory McIlroy, No 3 Jon Rahm and No 4 Viktor Hovland – all delivered performances worthy of their star status. Europe simply didn’t have that heavyweight power at Whistling Straits.
more to follow…