Golf

Big guns fire, Donald’s picks pay off but US tensions boil over – Ryder Cup Q&A

Team Europe’s Tommy Fleetwood lifts the Ryder Cup trophy (David Davies/PA)
Team Europe’s Tommy Fleetwood lifts the Ryder Cup trophy (David Davies/PA) Team Europe’s Tommy Fleetwood lifts the Ryder Cup trophy (David Davies/PA)

Europe regained the Ryder Cup after beating the United States by 16.5 points to 11.5 points at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key questions surrounding the 44th contest.

How important was home advantage?

European fans show support for Team Europe’s Jon Rahm
European fans show support for Team Europe’s Jon Rahm European fans show support for Team Europe’s Jon Rahm (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Massive and it shows no sign of changing. Eight of the last nine contests have now been won by the home side, the exception being the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012 where Europe recovered from 10-4 down to pull off a remarkable victory.

Nine of the US team did make a scouting trip to Marco Simone, but many of the European side had contested the Italian Open at the venue over the last three years, with Robert MacIntyre (2022) and Nicolai Hojgaard (2021) lifting the title.

Add in a partisan crowd and it is no wonder Rory McIlroy feels winning an away Ryder Cup is one of the biggest achievements in golf.

What about Europe’s big guns?

The home side boasted three of the world’s top four and 2022 US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick was also in the top 10, but that was no guarantee of success.

Fitzpatrick had lost all five of his previous matches, while Viktor Hovland halved two and lost three at Whistling Straits, where only Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia and Tyrrell Hatton won more than a single point.

McIlroy’s last two Ryder Cups had yielded three points from eight matches but it was a completely different story in Rome.

McIlroy was top scorer on either side with four points, Hovland and Hatton won three and a half points each and both Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood contributed three each.

Did Europe captain Luke Donald’s wild cards justify their selection?

Ludvig Aberg
Ludvig Aberg Ludvig Aberg has been called a ‘generational talent’ (David Davies/PA)

In the vast majority of cases they did, although with six at his disposal a 100 per cent success rate was virtually impossible.

It was no surprise to see Fleetwood play well and Justin Rose did superbly to partner MacIntyre to one and a half points before running into a motivated Patrick Cantlay in the singles.

Ludvig Aberg, labelled a “generational talent” when selected by Donald, won a highly creditable two points alongside Hovland and MacIntyre fared even better with two and a half, the only disappointment being Hojgaard taking just half a point from three matches.

How about Donald himself?

It is fair to say Donald’s captaincy was an unqualified triumph.

He took over in difficult circumstances when Henrik Stenson was sacked after joining LIV Golf, but formed an instant rapport with his players and left no stone unturned in his preparation, even taking lessons to ensure he could deliver the first part of his speech at the opening ceremony in fluent Italian while counterpart Zach Johnson grappled with the few words and phrases he used.

As a former world number one who was never on a losing Ryder Cup side, Donald also had the respect of his players and made good use of the detailed statistics provided by vice-captain Edoardo Molinari.

What did the Americans get wrong?

USA captain Zach Johnson, right, stands dejected alongside Jordan Spieth
USA captain Zach Johnson, right, stands dejected alongside Jordan Spieth USA captain Zach Johnson, right, stands dejected alongside Jordan Spieth (Mike Egerton/PA)

Johnson was accused of pandering to a powerful clique of players when selecting Justin Thomas and Sam Burns over the likes of Cameron Young, Keegan Bradley and Lucas Glover, with Burns thought to benefit from his friendship with Scottie Scheffler.

They duly played together in the first session but lost convincingly and did not play together again.

In addition, only three of the US team had played competitively since the Tour Championship at the end of August; Max Homa was top scorer with three and a half points, while Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka each won one and a half.

Read More : 

  • Shane Lowry: Ryder Cup triumph trumps Open Championship glory
  • Top 10 Ryder Cup moments for the Irish : Rory McIlroy's caddie tiff makes the list
  • 'Europe's on fire, USA is terrified': Elated Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry lead rowdy Ryder Cup celebrations

Were there tensions in the camp?

USA’s Patrick Cantlay on the 12th
USA’s Patrick Cantlay on the 12th USA’s Patrick Cantlay on the 12th (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Cantlay claimed reports that he was refusing to wear a USA-branded cap in protest at not being paid to play in the Ryder Cup were “outright lies”, but suggestions that all team members would play the first hole on Sunday without wearing a cap in solidarity proved hit and miss at best.

Cantlay and good friend Xander Schauffele had missed the scouting trip due to the former’s bachelor party and he was scheduled to get married in Rome immediately after the contest.

What impact did the lack of LIV players have?

None whatsoever on the European side, who did not have the chance to call on the experience of the likes of Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, but did not miss the veteran trio in the slightest.

It is impossible to know whether Dustin Johnson – who won all five of his matches in 2021 – or Bryson DeChambeau would have made any difference to the outcome, although the fact that the United States have not won on European soil since 1993 offers a clue.

When is the next Ryder Cup?

Adare Manor Golf Club
Adare Manor Golf Club Adare Manor will host the 2027 Ryder Cup (Niall Carson/PA)

The Black Course at Bethpage State Park will host the next Ryder Cup in September 2025, while the next on European soil will take place two years later at Adare Manor in Ireland.