Team USA attempted a miracle Sunday at Marco Simone but were again outplayed by a dominant European side with Europe winning back the Ryder Cup 16.5 to 11.5
As we waited for the Ryder Cup Sunday singles to get underway, it was a complete role reversal from two years ago. Europe were most likely going to win but by how much? They had in their sights the record-breaking total of 19 points set at Whistling Straits but surely the Americans would not give up 8.5 points of the possible 12?
In 2021, USA had shown an unbelievable dominance on the course, no matter how hard Europe battled, they just could not break through. But battle they did until the final putt dropped, with tears of disappointment and frustration for all to see (Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry instantly spring to mind).
Steve Stricker, the USA Captain at that time, declared it was a new era for USA golf and that "everybody knows how important it is, and they want to win. Every team I've been a part of, player or a captain, they want to win, bottom line. We all want to win, we all want to do our best, we don't want to let anybody down."
Jordan Spieth, who played in four matches, gaining 1.5 of those record-breaking 19 points added:
“If we play like we did this week, the score will look the same over there in a couple years, and that's what we're here for.”
Coming back to the present day and this week in Rome, a lot had changed in the intervening two years, mainly due to the division in men's golf by the emergence of LIV Golf. Although USA were potentially missing DeChambeau and Johnson, the team retained seven players (Cantlay, Koepka, Morikawa, Schauffele, Scheffler, Spieth and Thomas) from their glorious 2021 victory.
On the European side there had been big character losses too like Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood. Both unlikely to have played but would have been an integral part of the overall team. Not to mention the loss of their Captain Henrik Stenson just 14 months before the event due to them joining LIV Golf.
With that in mind, the impact on both teams and their potential performance where pretty even.
It may not have been quite from the first tee shot but it certainly seemed that Hovland's chip-in from the edge of the green on the first in the second foursomes match on Friday morning was when Europe took control.
Spieth noted that moment and the play by the European side all week:
"Viktor chipped in from on the green, that ran to a pin. Like it was the perfect storm. They chipped in a lot. They holed a lot of putts over ten feet this week."
I'll admit that it seemed that for the first three sessions putts and chips were dropping from everywhere for Europe, but there also appeared to be a lack of drive from the Americans. Like the wind had been taken out of their sails.
With talk of internal feuding in camp USA circulating, it reminded me that they had managed to win 19-9 with one of golf's biggest "feuds" amongst their team in 2021 with Koepka versus DeChambeau. By the time we got to Saturday afternoon my conclusion was the Americans needed 'more passion and more energy'.
As the Sunday singles played out, there did seem to be glimmers of the fight and passion which some of the US team had really needed. They did not give up and in the end it was the penultimate match on the course with Tommy Fleetwood against Rickie Fowler where the winning point would be scored.
Here's how the Sunday singles played out:
|Jon Rahm||halved||Scottie Scheffler||2nd: 12–6|
|Viktor Hovland||4 & 3||Collin Morikawa||1st: 11½–5½|
|Justin Rose||2 & 1||Patrick Cantlay||3rd: 12–7|
|Rory McIlroy||3 & 1||Sam Burns||4th: 13–7|
|Matt Fitzpatrick||1 up||Max Homa||7th: 14–9|
|Tyrrell Hatton||3 & 2||Brian Harman||5th: 14–7|
|Ludvig Åberg||3 & 2||Brooks Koepka||6th: 14–8|
|Sepp Straka||2 up||Justin Thomas||9th: 14–11|
|Nicolai Højgaard||3 & 1||Xander Schauffele||8th: 14–10|
|Shane Lowry||halved||Jordan Spieth||12th: 16½–11½|
|Tommy Fleetwood||3 & 1||Rickie Fowler||10th: 15–11|
|Robert MacIntyre||2 & 1||Wyndham Clark||11th: 16–11|
As the American team reflected on their loss, the conclusion was they were outplayed. Captain Zach Johnson said:
"They played for each other. I'm so grateful for that. This is a moment where you literally just have to accept that The European Team played really, really good golf. And that is really my freshest reflection right now is that Luke's team played great, and my boys rallied and fought."
Whilst Koepka brushed away any talk of infighting:
"I said it before the event, I thought this was the closest team that I think I've been on. We've got a great group of guys. This week, they just holed a lot more putts, a few more chip-ins. This team, we fought hard, and wouldn't want to do it with another group of guys."
I said we would revisit Spieth's quote above when I wrote about the final day at Whistling Straits two years ago. Quite simply, they didn't play the way they played then and Europe upped their game.
2025 Ryder Cup
Now we look ahead to 2025 and Bethpage Black. It is all well and good winning on home soil but now Europe will want to go back-to back. That is definitely McIlroy's plan:
"I think one of the biggest accomplishments in golf right now is winning an away Ryder Cup. And that's what we're going to do at Bethpage."
We'll have to wait another two years to see whether McIlroy's prediction comes true.
One thing is for sure, the European side needs to turn up with the same energy and passion they had in Italy if they stand any hope against the New York crowd who may not be in the vicinity of a Colosseum but they will be baying for blood.
Interested in going to the 2025 Ryder Cup? Golf Travel Centre will be releasing packages soon - find out more here. Or maybe you would like to play 2023 venue Marco Simone Golf & Country Club? View the latest package deal here.