Ryder Cup 2023 awards: Best player, shot, moment and early Bethpage Black prediction

As the dust settles on another compelling Ryder Cup, Europe can reflect on a job well done as they continued an unbroken run of home dominance that stretches back to the early 1990s.

Luke Donald hit all the right notes as captain, while Europe’s star trio of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland stepped up to the plate, the mid-tier including the likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton delivered in spades and all four rookies played their part at some point over the weekend.

Conversely, things quickly went south for Team USA as their (lack of) competitive preparation in the build-up was questioned, captain Zach Johnson struggled to galvanise his squad and rumours of a rift in camp emerged, although they all eventually united behind the slightly ludicrous, but entertaining, banner of Hatgate and a caddie overstepping the mark. Max Homa was an honourable exception, shining on his Ryder Cup debut, but things will need to change if the losing streak on the road is to finally end at 34 years at Adare Manor in 2027.

Here, Jack Rathborn and Lawrence Ostlere – our men in Rome – hand out Ryder Cup awards and take a look towards the next edition of this iconic match in 2025:

Player of the week

Jack Rathborn, Sports Editor: The statistics suggest Viktor Hovland, who led the field in strokes-gained according to DataGolf (+9.67). But it’s Rory McIlroy. The pressure was immense after a poor showing at Whistling Straits (1-3-0). The Northern Irishman had to shine in Rome and he did, leading his team in points (4-1-0) and providing the emotional spark to fend off any late charge from the Americans after the messy scenes of Hatgate on Saturday evening.

Lawrence Ostlere, Senior Sports Writer: Viktor Hovland was immense from his very first hole at this Ryder Cup, where he drove down the fairway and then chipped in for birdie to paint the first splash of blue on the scoreboard. Europe never looked back. He won four of his five matches and statistically he was the best player all week with the most total strokes gained. He also guided rookie Ludvig Aberg wonderfully, bailing out his teammate a few times in foursomes and cheerleading ferociously. Not only is Hovland a great golfer – arguably the best in the world right now – but he is an elite competitor who clearly thrives in the Ryder Cup cauldron. He will be a European stalwart for years to come.

Best moment

JR: Jon Rahm’s eagle on 18 during Friday fourballs, possibly the backbreaker on a potential USA comeback in the two days to follow. A glorious putt from 33ft, Rahm’s ball tumbled towards the hole at great speed, crashing into the back of the hole before bouncing up, then nestling into the bottom of the cup. A grin before bowing his head, almost in disbelief at his brilliance to wrestle away half a point from Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka, cue the latter's 'clown' jab at the Spaniard. “The best player in the world.” And that’s according to Rory McIlroy. Rahm was immense this week.

LO: Having a front-row seat to Hatgate: the cheeky goading of Patrick Cantlay at each green, the way thousands serenaded him walking down the 16th fairway, the spilling of emotions on the 18th where Rory McIlroy and Joe Lacava stood toe to toe, and the way Shane Lowry bowled in and it all got ugly. This Ryder Cup had been gently smouldering and that was the moment it ignited.

Best shot

JR: Tommy Fleetwood’s eagle on the 16th on Saturday afternoon. Are you not entertained? The Southport man’s delicate touch to slice through the fiendishly thick rough, popping the ball up and allowing it to dribble down towards the pin before arrogantly turning away a moment before the ball dropped. Box Office.

LO: Another mention for Fleetwood on the 16th here, albeit a different day. The Englishman knew the state of play on the scoreboard as he stepped up to the 16th tee on Sunday evening, so when Rickie Fowler found the water he was aware that a perfect tee shot would effectively win the Ryder Cup. On a driveable par four he could have easily laid up on the fairway with an iron but instead blasted a three wood over the water and on to the green. It was the shot of his life.

Early 2025 Bethpage Black prediction

JR: The pendulum swing of the Ryder Cup from one home team to another is an unwanted trend in some respects, but the magnitude of achieving an away win grows larger, as detailed by Rory McIlroy. Europe have all the momentum, but so too did the USA even one year out from Rome. That said, the dynamic of the team, the cohesion and the DP World Tour as an organic breeding ground for talent, not to mention more European players than ever before opting for the NCAA path at US colleges, make for at least a very close contest. Still, home turf and a hostile atmosphere in New York puts the USA as firm favourites, even if the fallout from LIV Golf brings uncertainty, and that should be enough for American revenge.

LO: The US will likely be favourites in New York, given their strength in depth and the value of home advantage. But if Europe are to keep the Donald-Dodo leadership in place, perhaps they can pull off a shock. McIlroy has called winning away in the Ryder Cup the hardest thing in sport. But it will happen one day. Europe to win 15-13.

One to watch in 2025

JR: Vincent Norrman. A PGA Tour winner at the Barbasol and the Irish Open champion this year, the Swede might have squeezed onto the team had his compatriot Ludvig Aberg not burst onto the scene and made it impossible for Luke Donald not to select him. A Florida State alumni with experience in the States, the 25-year-old has locked up his PGA Tour card through to Bethpage Black and can now accumulate world ranking points in the coming months to consolidate and improve his current position of 73. A well-rounded game from tee-to-green with nice touch around the greens, a Swedish pairing in 2025 with Aberg makes for an exciting prospect. Let’s see how he does in the majors next year.

LO: Ludvig Aberg made an impressive Ryder Cup debut, winning two and losing two of his four matches. He faded a little, understandably so, but only after destroying USA’s alpha pairing of Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler, reducing the latter to tears. Not bad for a 23-year-old fresh out of university... It will be fascinating to see how he copes in major championships over the coming year – he still hasn’t played one – but if this trajectory continues, he could elevate himself to be a real leader at Bethpage, someone rookies look to and rely on. And, of course, his ‘Hovberg’ partnership with Viktor Hovland is only just getting started.